Curator, Juliette Hanson, on 'Love & Legacy'
Love & Legacy explores the role of the Jewish grandmother in the 21st century. For this exhibition you interviewed 10 women of diverse backgrounds. Did you discover commonalities between them, and are these common threads distinctive to grandmother-hood?
There were certainly commonalities, primarily that all the women felt that they had an important role to play in passing on certain traditions, values and stories to their grandchildren. This was very often coupled with the distinct sense that they were a second tier of support for the younger generation after the parents, who shoulder most of the responsibility. Many of the women felt that they were therefore freed up to really enjoy the children, maybe even more than the parents could. I think this is a very specific position and role for grandmothers.
How much did these interviews inform the curation of the exhibition?
The interviews were really important in defining the main themes for the exhibition. It was only through talking to the eleven amazing women that we could find out what was important to today’s grandmothers and great-grandmothers, how they felt about their grandchildren and how they saw their role in the family and the community. The main themes of history, storytelling and food came out of the interviews and have formed significant sections of the exhibition.
Was it easy or difficult finding people willing to participate?
Only a couple of people declined to take part, due to having too many other commitments. Everyone else was very enthusiastic about the project and happy to be part of it.
A sub-theme of the exhibition is about absent grandmothers. How is this expressed in the exhibition?
We were aware that for many Jewish families the idea of a grandmother brings to mind absence and loss, particularly those families who have survived the Holocaust. In the exhibition, that sense of absence is suggested by an empty chair next to a shelf that is set up to look like a fireplace. On the shelf are pictures of grandmothers who were murdered or did not survive during the Holocaust. We also have an audio track of grandmothers talking about how this absence affected them and the community.
What is the most unexpected discovery you have made about Jewish grandmothers? Or what has delighted you about curating this exhibition?
It really has been a privilege to meet all the very different women who have been part of this project. It seemed that when we were interviewing them, they were answering questions that they had not perhaps been asked before, such as, what are your hopes for your grandchildren? It was lovely to see the passion and love shine from the women when they talked about their grandchildren.
Thanks Juliette! You can buy tickets to Love & Legacy by clicking here.