Written on 04-08-2017 by Ffion Fielding
In the 100 years since the First World War, how have women in Wales felt the impact of war, and contributed to the search for peace? This is the question that WCIA’s ‘Wales for Peace’ project explores with world-renowned photojournalist, Lee Karen Stow, in our latest exhibition: Women, War and Peace.
Lee Karen Stow is a photojournalist from Yorkshire whose work has been displayed at venues across the world – including Cambridge University and the UN headquarters in New York. She has travelled the world collecting stories of war and peace, and for the first time this summer a selection of her work will be on display in Wales. The inspiration for her documentary work came from a visit to Sierra Leone in 2007, when she met women displaced by a decade of civil war. Since then she has travelled the world recording the personal stories of women of war and conflict, and women who campaign for peace.
Then, in Lee’s words: “In 2017 Wales for Peace asked me to photograph some of the many women in Wales involved in or affected by war and conflict, along with a fraction of women who have campaigned and who continue to work and hope for peace. The faces on the walls will only be a few examples of the many individuals out there whose stories have yet to be told and shared. We hope this exhibition can begin a conversation about the historic and ongoing presence of war on our lives, and the ongoing search for peace.”
Lee’s work has also been an inspiration to the next generation of photojournalists, thanks to a linked project. Whilst Lee was visiting Wales, Ffotogallery, the national agency for photography in Wales, filmed her in an interview with some photography students from Whitchurch High school, Cardiff, talking about her work. This film was then used as inspiration for a series of workshops in 6 schools across south Wales, who produced documentary films about a peace story in their community. A selection of these films will be available to see as part of the exhibition.
Two of the historical documents held in the Temple of Peace will be on display alongside the documentary work, which give us a new perspective on the impact of the First World War on women. The Welsh National Book of Remembrance, contains the names of around 35,000 names of men and women who died in the First World War. The focus for this exhibition will be on the women listed under the Queen Mary Army Auxiliary Corps. As ever, the digital copy of the Book, created by the National Library of Wales, will be available alongside the real thing, so that people can take a closer look.
The women’s petition for peace, 1923-24, is a little known document with an extraordinary story. Over the course of a few short months 390,296 women in Wales (around 60% of the female population at the time) signed a petition asking the women of America to use their influence to ask their government to join the League of Nations, as a means of avoiding the horror of another world war. The petition’s beautiful frontpiece will be on display and we will further explore its history as part of the exhibition.
Ffion Fielding, Exhibitions and Engagement Coordinator for Wales for Peace, explained: “When we became aware of Lee’s work, we jumped at the chance to bring such a high-profile photographer to Wales. As a project we work with communities to find and share their ‘hidden histories’, and we often felt that women’s stories were missing, particularly in relation to the First World War. We hope the exhibition will inspire families to research their own stories, and share them with the nation through the Wales for Peace project. We’re very grateful to the National Assembly for the chance to develop and share this work”.
Throughout the summer of 2017, as a response to the exhibition, we will be asking people to contribute the stories of the women in their lives who have been affected by war or who have campaigned for peace. You can keep an eye on this campaign through Twitter @walesforpeace #womenwarpeace, or you can go straight to the peace map on our website to add their story.
Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and National Assembly for Wales.
View Digital Stories by South Wales Schools exploring ‘Women Poppies and War’ (link to Youtube or view below)