After over two years the “Birth Cultures: a journey through European history and traditions around birth and maternity” project comes to an end with a publication of the main results of the project and a final event at the Women’s Museum in Merano.
The BIRTH CULTURES project is the result of a joint effort of a group of women, linked to diverse organisations to approach a very delicate issue whilst providing tangible results. “It all started with a series of conversations between a group of women linked to the International Association of Women’s Museums (IAWM) on the importance of “making visible the invisible”: the stories, traditions, beliefs, and experiences of and around maternity and birth that are not necessarily talked about but always present in women’s lives. When delving into the subject it was clear that all of us who had experienced maternity had similar experiences, but these had never really been verbalised, let alone made visible, beyond our closest circles of family and friends. We realised that these life experiences are at most shared with our mothers, grandmothers, and a few close friends in the greatest intimacy, but very seldom discussed in society, contriving a silence which is both physically unhealthy and emotionally frustrating. From the initial conversations a project idea took shape and, when the opportunity arose to submit a proposal to an EU Creative Europe call, we decided to take our chance, conscious that the theme we wanted to tackle and how we wanted to do it, was, to put it mildly, unusual.”
With these words from the introduction of the Birth Cultures publication, Mercedes Giovinazzo, director of Interarts, explains how the project started. Its “story” is told through contributions and testimonies of women and men that have been involved in it, as well as through the description of the main activities that have taken place in its four cities: Barcelona (Spain), Hittisau (Austria), Merano (Italy) and Kharkiv (Ukraine). Indeed, on the one hand, the publication highlights some of the results achieved by the project, but it also highlights the need to change the dominant discourse around birth and pregnancy to overcome the cultural and social construction of the fear of childbirth and on the other, allow other organisations to replicate initiatives like this one.
These and other issues have been brought closer to society through the Birth Cultures exhibition. In addition, the audience development training courses have strengthened the competencies of participating cultural organisations and local organisations in partner countries to be prominent agents in their territories; the Birth Cafés have provided spaces for dialogue and reflection for women from different generations and cultural contexts to share their experiences; the conferences and seminars have given voice to health professionals, artists, activists, doulas, etc.; the artistic co-creation workshops have and the 6th IAWM international conference, with 77 members from 32 countries, tackled the diversity of cultures around birth, as well as issues such as gender equality, globalization and sustainability.
This 30-month shared adventure will now close with a Birth Cultures Final Event at the Women’s Museum in Merano (Italy) on April 19 and 20, 2022 that will present the results of the project, with contributions by different speakers specialists in the field of childbirth and maternity but will also announce the Birth Cultures exhibition in Merano and a visit to the city to discover places of relevance in the local history of women.