A1 at Bergarde

Artist in front of her sculpture at Bergarde, Heerjansdam, The Netherlands, 2019.

A1 is a symbol for the self-contained female. A woman is first a human being, then female, then mother. That she can give birth to children does not mean that she is just a mother. It is a strange idea that a woman can be owned, is subordinate to or has less value than a man. This subordination of women has traditionally been recorded in world religions. In the Bible Eve is the first woman to seduce Adam into the first sin. And therewith the tone was set and her fate sealed.

Until the 1960s it was customary in the Netherlands for women to automatically lose their jobs as soon as they got married. According to the Civil Code, introduced in 1838, women were “legally incapacitated” from the moment they married. As a woman you were forced to do what only a woman can do: become a mother. After you were neatly married, the pastor would soon be on the doorstep to hear when family expansion could be expected. Both laws were abolished on June 14, 1956. Until 1971, however, it remained in the law book that the man was the “head of the matrimony” and the woman “owed him obedience.”

Sketch for A1, 2019.

This concerns women up to and including my mother’s generation. What have restriction and undervaluation done to all these women? What has it done with their self-esteem and ambitions? I read the stories of my great-grandmother. She did exactly what her father and husband instructed her to do, resisting was a disgrace, and useless. This role play is passed up to my mother’s generation. In order to gain a position within the family and society women have adopted certain characteristics such as interference, quarrelship and manipulation. With these means they have tried to give themselves a significant role in the men’s world.

3D-design of A1 | Hedy Hempe | 2019.

After suppression of thousands of years, it is not easy to unlearn these acquired and worn-in qualities. The inferiority complex that many women suffer to a greater or lesser extent is also not simply abolished. I speak from my own experience when I claim that these traits will be passed on from mother to daughter even still in future. When I decided to follow a journalism education, my mother said ‘why all that trouble, you have a man with a well-paid job?’ Today the government is calling on women to become self-employed by taking care of their own income, but where do they get the ambition? For centuries their ambition has been destroyed. It will take some time before self-esteem and self-assurance return to women.

At the building site | Bergarde, Heerjansdam |2019.

The modern woman must dare and learn to take her own space. She does not have to fight against men, but she should be inspired by her own personality to make her own decisions. She can take action herself, but that requires courage. A1 is a symbol of enthusiasm, ingenuity and humor. She has a head with built-in horns because she has her own will, she makes choices and decisions independently. She has small breasts because she is not only a seductress and a suckler mother. Her bow arms are strong, she can build. She has stacked a lookout post from straw bales. She feels completely at home in nature, in a jungle with wild plants and birds.

Woman in White | Sculpture by Hedy Hempe | Bergarde, Heerjansdam | 2019.