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Vlasta Delimar
Imam 50 godina
Vlasta Delimar, Imam 50 godina
31. VII. 2006.
The Third Age of Woman
In a woman's life the completion of half a century of living marks a major milestone. The scribes of ancient Egypt recorded 50 as the expected age for the onset of the female menopause and so it has remained for 5 millennia. Uniquely, woman is the only living creature capable of outliving her own fertility. The fact that she does so signifies her entry to the so called 'Third Age'.
The Third Age of Woman is a term derived from traditional perceptions of the cyclical nature of a woman's physical and spiritual development. Likened to the waxing and waning of the moon the stages of a woman's life were equated to the three 'faces' of the lunar goddess: the Virgin relates to the new moon, the Mother to the full moon and finally the Hag presides over the period when the moon is dark and hidden from view.
In 1982, Vlasta Delimar publicly enacted her symbolic transition from 'Virgin' to 'Mother' with the performance, 'Wedding'. It should be remembered that the term 'virgin' originally referred to an un-married woman rather than giving an indication of sexual experience or status. This joint action with fellow artist, Žjelko Jerman, documented the official ceremony of their marriage - the first traditional female rite of passage.
For close on a quarter of a century, Delimar has explored this 'fertile' stage of the female cycle to the hilt. Her celebratory stance has not shied away from the more difficult aspects of sexual power and subjugation - either in her professional role or in her personal life. People have sometimes found the work awkward or disturbing - many aspects of female strength and sexuality continue to attract social censure. Delimar, however, has been consistently determined to present her own reality rather than the 'air-brushed' version of publicly acceptable womanhood.
This new work marks Delimar's rite of passage into the final and, traditionally, the most powerful stage of the female cycle; the third face of the moon goddess - that of the Hag. This is the aspect of the 'wise woman' or the High Priestess. With her reproductive years now behind her the power of a woman's fertility was traditionally believed to be transferred from the physical realm to that of the spiritual. In the old, matriarchal religions of Europe the menopause would mark a woman's accession to religious and social leadership. Such was the power traditionally ascribed to the Hag that she was actively feared by Europe's more recent patriarchal cultures and religions. As a result she was routinely demonised as the evil sorceress or wicked witch so beloved of European fairytales and so enthusiastically persecuted by the Catholic Inquisition.
In previous centuries, however, passage into the Third Age was achieved by relatively few. With an average life expectancy of 40 to 45 years the majority of women failed to survive until the menopause itself - let alone beyond it. However, with the dramatic lengthening of female life-expectancy over the last 150 years or so, many European women can now expect to survive well into their 80s. That's over 30 years spent living in the final phase of the female cycle.
It is therefore ironic that this aspect of a woman's development is becoming increasingly taboo. Youth is apparently everything and women are ever more reluctant to relinquish the 'Mother' phase of their existence. From face-lifts to boob-jobs, botox injections to liposuction - fortunes are being spent in an endeavour to stave off the physical stigmata of the Hag. More fundamentally, biology itself is being thwarted with women in their 60s now giving birth with the aid of IVF and donated ova.
In a culture fixated with the fecundity of the full moon the role of the Hag has been marginalised almost out of existence. The fullest potential of what it is to be a woman has been reduced to an ever more flamboyant charade of denial. How much of this attitude comes from a lack of knowledge; from a lack of understanding of what it is to be female? Have centuries of patriarchal propaganda succeeded in stripping the Hag of her status and her strength? Western European culture would appear to have lost its memories of the traditional role of women in their third age.
As one of the last of the baby boom generation, about to cross the threshold of the menopause myself, I welcome Vlasta Delimar's marking of this major milestone in a woman's development. Her fearless attitude and dedication have enabled her to explore and address important issues of femininity over the last 25 years. By bringing her accumulated understanding and experience to bear on this new era of her existence I am confident that she will open up fresh and fundamental discourses regarding this currently neglected aspect of womanhood.
It is apposite that Delimar has chosen to re-visit her 'Virgin' work of 1980 - 'Transformation of Personality' - to celebrate her final metamorphosis. This re-working will underline the unfolding journey from the physical through the intellectual towards the spiritual. I look forward to following Vlasta's continuing exploration of what it is to be a woman as she travels through her Third Age. This new cycle has the potential to be the most powerful and challenging phase of her career.
Alison Radovanović, July 2006
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