Rediscovering Footsteps Of Grandmothers
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Rediscovering Footsteps Of Grandmothers
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  • 승인 2003.10.01 00:00
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History, as the word implies, has been for the most time written by men, for men, and about men. Although attempts to include "herstory" in the existing history began in the early 1990s in the West, this task has begun here only relatively recently and is still in its infancy.
In an effort to redirect the spotlight onto the history of women, the Ministry of Gender Equality established the Women"s History Exhibition Hall in Seoul Women Plaza, Daebang-dong, last year. The ongoing display, "Great Expectations: Grandmothers Awaken Our Daughters," is divided into five themes: "Women, Awaken,"""Women, Stand Up,"?"Women, Work,"?"Women, Change," and "Women, Express."?The first part, "Women, Awaken," deals with women"s education. After the late Choson period, women were given access to?"modern" forms of education. It shows how the objectives of women"s education have evolved since the late 19th century. Until the 1950s, the purpose of women"s schooling was to produce wise mothers and good wives by teaching them womanly virtues.
After the economic development in the 1960s and 70s, the goal changed to fostering a sense of national identity, pride, and productivity among women. Since the 1980s, bluntly-addressed women values began to disappear from the school mottos, as awareness of gender equality slowly started to spread. Phrases which metaphorically direct female students to traditional forms of womanhood, however, still prevailed.
?"Women, Stand Up" is a narrative of the women"s rights movement. Through education, women began to acknowledge that men and women are equal, and began voicing their views. A 15-minute film shows how the women"s rights movement in Korea has evolved since the opening of the country to the West in 1890s; from save-the-nation drives to current legal amendment movements.
15 portraits of women who ventured to break the glass ceiling and contributed to the enhancement of women"s status are showcased in the hallway just out of the documentary room. The list includes artist Na Hye-seok, dancer Choi Seung-hee, and Choi Eun-hee, the first female Korean journalist.
The hallway leads to a room where a dark space titled "Dialogue with Pioneers" has been installed. Ryu Gwan-sun, brought to life through a 3-D picture, vividly describes what happened during the March 1 Movement of 1919. The solemnity that surrounds the room gets heightened by the mood created by the background music­Chaconne from J.S. Bach"s Partita for solo violin No. 2.
The influx of Western culture brought sensational changes in Korean society. "Women, Change" examines the changes made in housework. Simplified clothes, food, and the home functions helped women make inroads into the social spheres of the community, relieved from the housework that have been the principle factors that had confined women to their homes.
The museum effectively utilizes visual resources to show how our food culture has changed. A series of food TV commercials from the 1960s to present chronicles the advent of artificial seasonings, instant ramen, frozen food, quick dishes, and fast food, all catering to the needs of working women.
We now live in the age of information, and images stand at the basis of this type of knowledge transfer. Under such circumstances, women are apt to be objectified for commercial uses, be it in literature, movies, or advertisements. "Women, Express" explores the world of feminine language, images, and arts. A 51-minute film titled 2002 Women? Theater: Ecstasy takes a close look at the female characters portrayed in movies since 1950 film "Free Woman." Interviews with the top actress who defined the cultural code in the respective era, and with actresses trying to add new types of female characters are included.
Women"s language has been criticized for its inarticulacy and illogicality. Yet, recent researches in feminist perspectives say that these traits make women"s language a more open, complex, and liberating language than the conventional language. Through 50 audio excerpts from poems, novels, songs, myths, and movies by women artists stored in the audio wall, the audience can sample the charm of feminine language.
Upon walking out of the last gallery room, a huge electronic quilt, "The Rose of Sharon Bloomed" by Kim Ji-hyun, encompasses women of all generations and races in its 40 screen pieces. The dreams that the women of preceding generations pursued brought better life conditions for their daughters. A brighter future could be spotted on the big smile of a girl portrayed in the montage. Hoping that the world will become a place where humans and nature can live in harmony, and that it will be realized by women"s peculiar gentleness, a reporter was able to conclude this visit in absolute content.
arielle@ewha.ac.kr

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