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Not yet out of the shadows 


The bringing together of 1990s art highlighting domestic abuse demonstrates the issues they raised have sadly not gone away. By the Revd Dr Clare McBeath


I wonder how many of you will remember the Clothesline Project, strung as a washing line across the stage at Baptist Assembly in 1998, before it travelled on to tour churches and regional events from Jarrow to Somerset?
20 years on, the 50 brightly coloured T-shirts, designed by women survivors of domestic abuse, have made a dramatic reappearance, this time as part of an Art Exhibition at Luther King House, Manchester, called Out of the Shadows to mark 20 years since the end of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Decade in Solidarity with Women (1988 – 1998).
The T-shirts, with their graphic messages and illustrations, were created to increase awareness of the impact of violence against women and girls and to celebrate women’s strength and courage to overcome the past. They are hung side-by-side on the Clothesline, as though the survivors were standing there themselves, shoulder-to-shoulder, bearing witness to the violence that is still committed against women on a daily basis.
Other exhibits included the Manchester Mosaic, made up of 60 square panels depicting experiences of violence, made by over 200 women from churches and groups from across the North West and further afield. The Mosaic was produced in 1993 for a service at Manchester Cathedral entitled Out of the Shadows to mark the midpoint of the decade in solidarity.


Also on display as part of the Art Exhibition was the Bosnian Christa, made by Margaret Argyle in 1993, in response to her reading of the rapes of women in Bosnia. Initially shocked by an image of the Christa, she came to feel that the image of a crucified woman was her response to the appalling atrocities reported in the media.
“The feelings about those rapes which were too deep to write about or speak about were somehow – I don’t know how – converted into a visible form, made into this image which speaks to me and to others about the nature of a God who knows the sufferings of women because she has suffered them herself”. (Margaret Argyle, Bosnian Christa in Cutting Edge, March 1995)
SueBarclayThe Out of the Shadows Art Exhibition was held at Luther King House in partnership with The Centre for Theology and Justice and was followed by a lecture View from the Mat: Theological Reflection on Gender Based Violence in Uganda by Baptist minister, Sue Barclay, who has recently and successfully completed her PhD.
On the 25th anniversary of the marking of the Manchester Mosaic and the 20th anniversary of the Clothesline Project, sadly the issues they raise have not gone away. In fact, they have recently come the fore again through the social media campaign #MeToo.
The Centre for Theology and Justice at Luther King House was proud to hold the Art Exhibition Out of the Shadows as part of its commitment to justice for all.

But just as the Out of the Shadows service 25 years ago at the cathedral sparked controversy, the recent Art Exhibition too has not been without contention, demonstrating that the issue of domestic abuse is not yet out of the shadows.


The Revd Dr Clare McBeath is co-principal of Northern Baptist College 

Baptist Times, 02/03/2018
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