Digging Deep: Leadership, Learning and Endurance. A Conversation between Nandita Gandhi, Althea Greenan, Merete Ipsen, and Adele Patrick

OnCurating: Instituting Feminism, Issue 52. eds. Helena Reckitt and Dorothee Richter.
                       November 2021

writing, sharing knowledge

For this issue of OnCurating focusing on ‘Instituting Feminism’ I convened and edited a collaborative contribution.

The chapter was conceived as Glasgow Women’s Library approached its 30th anniversary in September 2021. It felt timely to speak with co-founders and leaders of feminist cultural organisations with whom I had a connection and who had also been developing projects for three decades or more: Nandita Gandhi, co-founder and co-director of Akshara, Mumbai; Merete Ipsen, the former director and co-founder of Kvindemuseet (now Køn), Aarhus; and Althea Greenan, curator of the Women’s Art Library (WAL), London.

We shared thoughts on professionalisation, the ‘weight’ of feminist leadership, the process of (co)founding and leaving organisations and, critically, notions of endurance. I wanted us to discuss these topics at a point when the cultural sector was responding to critiques around ownership, representation, power, and relevance (questions that have been at the forefront of feminist theory and practice). As museums, libraries and cultural organisations face escalating demands to abolish, ‘de-tox’, and re-structure around equalities (but where paradoxically ‘widened access’ and human rights-based agendas are increasingly under threat or corporatised), what can be learnt from experiments in feminist organising in global contexts?

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“What can we do now? How can we use space? How can we make the information that we've got work for the people who need to see change in their lives?”