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Fairy tales and feminism.

Giant shoe encrusted with pink jewels.
Glass slipper from exhibition

Finally got myself to the Fairytales exhibition before it closes next weekend. It was a lovely experience, transporting me into another realm, the one of "glint and sparkle" of fairy tales. At least part of the pleasure was that it has actually been some time since I have been to QAGoMA, not since before COVID, I think. I used to visit regularly, so it was lovely to linger over the fantastic creations, take some time out for a coffee and browse through the gallery stores. A return to one of my happy places.

And its a good exhibition, featuring some of the notable artists who use the magic of fairy tales to inspire their art. I recognise myself and my own art in some of the pieces, the shimmering OTT maximalism that we all associate with fairy tales. Perhaps because the gallery is trying to appeal to a broad audience including children, I noted that the darkness that comes with the original tales was often missing...something I found a little disappointing. It was there lurking in the witch's house, the retelling of the Donkey Skin tale, Del Kathryn Barton's film and Patricia Piccinini's various creations. But I felt that it was a little over-ridden by the beautiful costumes from Mirror Mirror, Alison in Wonderland and other feature films, which are no doubt splendid and magical but also subject to the entertainment industry's sanitation of some of the broader themes of fairy tales. Indeed, the very first didactics referred to the "literary genius" of Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, undoubtedly very talented but notably blokes - men who did not create the tales, but rather collected them and rewrote them according to the patriarchal hegemony of the time.

Did you know that many of what we assume to be "Grimm Fairytales" were originally written by women: old wives, crones, and often spoke of the power of women? Disnification turned many of the female archetypes into beautiful but fairly useless princesses, with the ugly old witch the only female portrayed with any real power. Authority on fairytales Jack Zipes posits the tales as reflecting the historical epoch of its time. His female counterpart, Marina Warner, makes it clear that in many of the original tales, the woman is the one with power. So I was relieved to see the work of Kiki Smith represented in the exhibition with her work Born. Smith gives the power back to Red Riding Hood and her grandmother, not the wolf. She further suggests that the female outsmarts the threat that overshadows the life of the females in the tale.

All in all, Fairytales was a great exhibition and if you haven't seen it already, I highly recommend. I hope you are able to see beyond the glint and sparkle and understand some of the life lessons fairytales have for us.

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My daughter and I went to this exhibition recently. We also thoroughly enjoyed it.

There certainly was some darkness and light. I did also think that some of your work would fit right into this exhibition.

We enjoyed the Mirror, Mirror costumes for their design and construction. I haven't seen this movie.

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Mirror, Mirror is definitely worth seeing - one of the better modern fairy tale adaptations from recent years in terms of feminist themes. And yes, the costumes were luscious and it was awesome to see them in the flesh.

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