On the 21st June we were invited to the launch of the pop-up Museum of Motherhood London, an event which took place, very appropriately, in the Museum of Childhood. The Museum of Motherhood London is the first of its kind in Europe. There is a whole museum dedicated to motherhood in NYC, but we in Europe seem to be behind the game. It is interesting that we celebrate so many things and yet take motherhood for granted.
We’d been talking to Anthony Silkoff, the driving force behind MoMLondon on twitter previously and wrote a pre-launch blog. The exhibition is a celebration and exploration of motherhood which is raising money for Proshanti a maternal health charity helping mothers and children in Bangladesh. Anthony and partner in this project, Rizwan Hussain are both his Faith Acts Fellows with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and one of the purposes of this exhibition was to promote interfaith relations.
The launch night was great. The exhibition itself was fascinating and contained some really thought provoking stories, like the profound comment in Renee’s story “Now I see my own children looking at me growing old. Sadly, grief is the price we pay for love; if we didn’t love so much we wouldn’t grieve so much. But it’s worth it; it’s totally worth it.” Or the amazing story of strength grown out of tragic news by Alice, a Mum diagnosed with HIV whilst pregnant (read this and other stories here at Story of Mum). Many of the people whose oral histories formed the exhibition were at the launch event and were visably proud to be a part of it all. You can read all the stories in the book produced by MoMLondon, which you can buy here.
Anthony and Rizwan are two inspiring young men. Anthony is a 23 year old, Jewish man. He was the youngest person ever awarded the UK and Ireland Young Thinker of the Year award in 2009 and he founded OneVoice Glasgow, the first European student chapter of the OneVoice Movement which empowers young people in both Israel and Palestine to have a voice in the agenda for peace between the two countries. Rizwan is also 23 and a Muslim. He has been a participation worker at Islington Council Children Services department and also set up the Young Refugee Voices project as well as using his own graphic design company to raise awareness of the social and political issues which face British Pakistani youth.
Anthony said one of the key intentions of MoMLondon “was to make Bangladeshi women’s healthcare relevant to Londoners of all faiths and none”. He cites some of his key influences as his travel and his post graduate study in human rights and gender equality, saying, “ Women are discriminated against on the basis of their gender, to varying degrees, in every corner of the globe. Often that discrimination is connected to their status as mothers, whether it’s being fired for taking maternity leave, or dying in childbirth because your government doesn’t consider women’s healthcare a priority. Those injustices inspire me to seek change.” Anthony also says that the loss of his own mother to cancer was always in the back of his mind, though he says he does not think he could be as candid about his own mother as many of the people he interviewed were about their experiences.
Rizwan says that the MoMLondon was inspiring for him as an individual. He says that he has “tried to take a learning or a teaching from each story, which I can practice in my own day to day life, or reflections” and also that it has inspired him to consider the stories behind people and to ask his own parents more about their own lives.
The launch of the Museum of Motherhood had some great speakers too, all of whom left the audience with many gems of wisdom about motherhood. Ruth Turner, chief executive of the Tony Blair faith foundation spoke first about the exhibition. She spoke about motherhood as both “intimate and public” saying that there are few groups more vilified for society’s ills than mothers. Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow spoke about how the pop-up museum used motherhood to raise awareness of of the similarities between the western world and developing nations. She hoped it would also help us to align the needs of both groups. Pinky Lilani, founder of the Asian women’s achievement award also spoke, as did Lilu Ahmed, director of Prochanti.
Overall the Museum of Motherhood was a fascinating and inspiring exploration of motherhood which I for one feel should progress further. You can read the full interviews with Anthony and Rizwan here. We leave the final word about the Museum of Motherhood to Anthony:
Riz and I would be delighted if some other people took this project and expanded it.
Our book can be purchased online here for £8, all revenue to Proshanti’s antenatal care work in Bangladesh: http://www.
The next scheduled display of the Museum of Motherhood is at the Women’s Library, Aldgate, from 12th – 18th September 2012: http://www.londonmet.ac.