Padma Rao: Women's House

North East artist Padma Rao has been awarded a Slate Production bursary and a Slate Press & PR bursary to support her project Women’s House. In the autumn, we’ll be holding a Slate Social where you can meet Padma and find out more about her work. In the meantime, here’s Padma on the inspiration behind the project:

‘A Space Of Our Own’

Sangini, a BME women led organisation, based in the North East of England, leads the way for a conversation around why we need more dedicated spaces, both intellectually and physically for women to make and show their artwork, because women’s creative expression is an important part of our cultural heritage.

Support from the Arts Council of England, Slate, Sunderland Culture and Cultural Spring has enabled the organisation to develop an arts project ‘Women’s House’, exploring feminism, art and the role of women within the Black minority ethnic and LGBTQ groups. As part of this project, women from across South Tyneside and Sunderland will come together to take part in ‘Women’s House Symposium’ to be held on Fri 12 Apr 10am – 12.30pm at the National Glass Centre, Sunderland.  A panel of speakers from across the region and beyond are invited to present their experiences, thoughts and views on ‘Women as artists, their art and the place of women’s art in the current climate’. 

Set in the context of the centenary of suffragette movement and the ‘me too’ campaign, this event is part of an artists-led project Women's House that looks at how we define, understand and relate to feminism intersecting with identity and sexuality in these current times.

The symposium invites artists, academics and cultural practitioners to reflect upon and engage in a discourse about Feminism from Black and LGBTQ perspectives, share creative practices that challenge and articulate these concerns and raise questions about the status of women's art within the wider framework for equality.  So popular this has proved that within days of announcing, the event was sold out.

Women's House project takes its reference from Judy Chicago's original feminist art installation 'Womanhouse', 1972.  Womanhouse (30 January – 28 February 1972) was a feminist art installation and performance space organized by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, co-founders of the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) Feminist Art Program. Chicago, Schapiro, their students and women artists from the local community, including Faith Wilding, participated.  Chicago and Schapiro encouraged their students to use consciousness-raising techniques to generate the content of the exhibition.

However, the artists creating Womanhouse did so, centralizing a white, cisgender, heterosexual and middle-class experience of womanhood in the early seventies.

Four decades on, this project – Women’s House, considers BME and LGBTQ women’s narratives around some of the issues they are facing in current times in the light of the wider political, social and demographical changes. 

The Women’s House symposium provides an opportunity to examine the notion of domesticity and space (or the lack of it) and asks women artists about how they negotiate and navigate their practice through these socially genderised structures.

Padma Rao and Miki Z, two diverse women artists leading on this project have been working with women’s groups across South Tyneside, Sunderland and Newcastle. 

"We don’t think about the issues of identity, sexuality and femininity in our daily lives but they are existentially important nonetheless. The Women’s House Symposium throws light on this and we want to bring women from all backgrounds together to celebrate their journeys in a positive way. The guest speakers are leading practitioners, artists in their field and will present their own stories and approaches on how they have addressed the subtle nuances of inequalities, gender stereotyping and identity in their art work." Miki Z said

Padma Rao added, "The issue of equality, especially gender equality doesn’t seem to be so much of a priority now and there is an assumption that everything is fine.  Throughout this project, women have told us otherwise. We want to highlight women’s art from Black and LGBTQ perspectives and generate a meaningful conversation about why we need to provide a space where women can engage in creative processes that is reflective of their lives and worldviews."

For more information about the Women’s House Symposium or take part in any of Sangini’s activities, please contact Padma Rao via email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 07930175319.

Padma Rao: Women's House