3rd CITY OF WOMEN FESTIVAL, 17-24 October 1997


They say everything goes well the third time. Unfortunately, not always and not everywhere.

The City of Women as an international festival of contemporary art first came into being in 1995. Enthusiastic about the idea of an annual festival, which places the creativity of women at the centre of cultural and other kinds of attention, we organised fifty events which followed one  another  over five dynamic days. We listened to Songs from the hill, conjured up for us by the genius of Meredith Monk, accompanied by various artists from the  world of culture and the entertainment industry we walked through the City Gallery, where twenty-five artists were exhibiting under the slogan Stereotype, in which they played with stereotypes ascribed to women by society; in her monologue, My Virginia, Darci Picoult drew us into a personal experience of the damaging and lethal DES drug, the use of which on animals was banned in the USA ten years before being prohibited in the treatment of women; we published The Veiled Landscape, the first anthology of contemporary Slovene women's prose and poetry in English, which will be published next year in Great Britain. The list goes on.

A year later we received half the funds for the festival and in seven days we presented artists who work outside western Europe and the USA, where the women's movement has the longest tradition and the most visible success. The festival opened with touching and magical love songs by Bosnian singers who, for the first time after the long and hellish war, had left Sarajevo; the winner  of Oscar for best foreign film, Marleen Garris took our breath away with her unforgettable feminist "fairy tale" Antonia; we presented the philosopher Hannah Arendt and viewed her only TV interview from which we could really learn a lot about a human as a political being if humans can ever really learn lessons from history; the City of Women ended with people dancing to the mesmerising voice of a Macedonian singer, Petranka Kostadinova, and her energetic musical ensemble.

After the festival we received numerous invitations to Vienna, Bonn, Budapest, Dortmund  and  Innsbruck to attend expert meetings where we were presented as an interesting and successful way of winning recognition for women's contribution to culture, a major theme in many European countries; at the same time, they presented us alongside the most distinguished European art festivals, which are organised in vastly superior conditions and under the wing of a much more rationally organised cultural policies. Preparations for  the  third  City of Women arts festival were severely shaken by the decision of the festival's  major Slovene backers at local and national level to cut their support to such an extent that we were forced to conclude that there is no place for such projects in Slovenia. At the last moment we received support from many individuals, our co-workers in the arts, whose various contributions restored the foundations of the ruined City, for which they have our eternal gratitude.

The City of Women is a subtle organism which has no future in a hostile environment. The existence of the fourth festival depends on the environment in which it is supposed to come into being. This is an environment, however, that puts the fundamental rights of women, which seemed quite obvious just a few years ago, into question more and more every day. The spears broken on the shoulders of the City of Women are nothing more than a reflection of our social and political reality. No matter how sharp they are, the fact remains: the future belongs to women. Research conducted by our European colleagues has shown that the number of women working in the arts and media in the last decade has dramatically increased; although lower rungs on the hierarchical ladder are accessible to them, although they are paid less than their male colleagues, there are more of them every day, they are better educated than their male colleagues and more numerous as consumers of culture. The fact that female artists, producers and workers in the media will mark the next millennium, is already at the door.

Uršula Cetinski