Feared and Revered at the National Museum of Australia

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Posted 2023-06-18 by Ashleigh Meiklefollow

Thu 08 Dec 2022 - Sun 27 Aug 2023

Ever since the 8th of December 2022 and up until the 27th of August 2023, the National Museum of Australia is hosting the Feared and Revered Exhibition showcasing over 160 objects from the British Museum that represent feminine power throughout the past 5,000 years from 2800 BC until the present day. The exhibition is a collaboration between the British Museum and the National Museum of Australia as well. It highlights the many faces of feminine power, which is beautiful, creative, ferocious or hell-bent depending on its representation across cultures and what each goddess or figure has represented from rebirth, to life, to magic, or to revenge-driven women and stories that can strike terror in the hearts of those who anger the powerful women and goddesses. The exhibition also reflects on the influence of feminine power throughout the ages.

The exhibition that spans six continents, the many faces of feminine power, as well as the themes of creation, war, passion, mercy and justice includes contemporary reflections not only at the exhibit but also in the exhibition guide available for sale from the former Governor-General Quentin Bryce, the world-renowned classicist Mary Beard who also curated the exhibit and worked on the expansive and informative guidebook that I am still reading, as well as other reflections from Bangarra dance artist Kassidy Waters, human rights lawyer Rabia Siddique, comedian and the host of The Guilty Feminist podcast Deborah Frances-White, playwright and critic Bonnie Greer and finally, Elizabeth Day, an award-winning writer and presenter of the How to Fall podcast.

As a timely exhibition questioning feminine power, authority, and identity, Feared and Revered has a large range of sculptures, sacred artefacts, contemporary artworks, and Australian Indigenous representations of female ancestral figures, as well as popular culture embodiments of divinity.

The exhibition has quiet hours on Tuesday the 4th of July and the 1st of August 2023 between four and six pm, designed for visitors who want reduced noise and sensory experiences.

I went back in April, and I loved the exhibition, as I have studied ancient history, women in history, and mythology, and I am always drawn to the stories of women and goddesses and what they represent. Each item is carefully chosen and displayed with its provenance and any information there is about the item, and the page for the exhibition has some great links to download and see this information in a PDF which I think is a very useful research tool. The exhibition, online resources, and the companion book – Feminine Power: The Divine to the Demonic by Belinda Crerar, with a preface by Mary Beard is a great educational experience and one that is suitable for all ages, and I found it easy to get around as it is all in a single room near the entrance to the museum. The museum has a great page about its overall accessibility, so this is a good place to consult if you want to work out how you will access the museum and its exhibitions. I think exhibitions like this can introduce us to new ideas and new knowledge, showing that there is more than what we have been taught at school, have read in books, or have been exposed to by popular culture. Women and their identities are nuanced, and this exhibition shows that in droves, and is an eye-opening and awe-inspiring experience that even when you're not at a sensory time showing, the silence that the exhibit exudes is ever-present, and it feels irreverent to speak too loudly. I was absorbing it all and I am able to revisit it through the companion book.

I found the broad range of sculptures, masks, paintings and coins intriguing and they gave visitors an understanding about how women have been depicted throughout history in various forms of art – from dangerous and demonic, to goddesses like Aphrodite, Athena, and Shri-Lakshmi for example, as well as the role of religions throughout time and cultural impacts on the imagery and stories that were represented. Some, like the Roman, Greek, Indonesian, and Hindu images, and representations of femininity I knew. There were others that were new to me, which is one of the reasons I enjoy exhibitions like this – they expand my knowledge and understanding, and it's always great to see how something like this is shown to the public and the interest that it garners. I liked that this exhibit had timed sessions too – information that will be available when you go to purchase tickets online, as it meant that the exhibition room wasn't too crowded. It took about an hour and a half to two hours to go through the exhibition, and then I was able to explore other areas of the museum, which I had not done on previous visits to other special exhibitions. The Feared and Revered Exhibition is well worth the visit and experience.


Adult: $25
Concession: $20
Child (5-16): $12.50
Family (2 adults and 2 children): $62.50
Friends of the museum: $17.50
Exhibition members and friends: Free

!date 08/12/2022 -- 27/08/2023
221070 - 2023-06-30 10:36:23


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