BIOGRAPHY
OF MONICA SJÖÖ

Picture above: Monica in her small study/bedroom on the amazingly painted 'throne' her son Sean made for her many years ago.

Monica wrote a brief autobiography (twenty-two A4 pages) at the beginning of 2004 when she felt that her health was deteriorating.
The breast cancer she suffered several years before, had returned and spread throughout the bones of her body. She needed a wheelchair and nursing care. You can read her own account of her life here

Further information about Monica's life can be gained through reading her personal commentary on each painting in the Art Gallery that was included in the 2004 Retrospective Exhibition. 

From the catalogue of one of her Art Exhibitions:

Monica Sjöö is a radical anarcho/eco-feminist and Goddess artist, writer and thinker involved in Earth spirituality. Born in Sweden in 1938 she has lived mostly in Bristol since the late 1950's and has been active in the Women's Liberation Movement since the 60's. Her paintings are inspired by the veneration in ancient cultures of the Great Mother, the Earth. They have been exhibited throughout Europe and in America. Monica reflects her politics and spirituality not just in her art but also in her writing. She's author of the Great Cosmic Mother, Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth (with Barbara Mor) and "Return of the Dark/Light Mother, or New Age Armegeddon?" plus numerous articles in many papers and magazines. She is also an active speaker who has toured many countries exposing her anarcho-femnist philosophies in universities, conferences, festivals and camps. This ideology is also reflected in Monica's activism, she took part in many campaigns and causes.

As an artist her most famous work is "God giving birth" (1968) which has become a feminist icon. This painting depicts God as a Black woman and the human creation as a real birth (A revolutionary painting back in the 60's, for she was threatened several times with legal action on the grounds of "blasphemy").
Many of her paintings have also been used in books, covers and cards.

 

MY LIFE STORY

I was born on New Year's Eve 1938 in Härnösand, a small provincial city on the Baltic in north Sweden, where my maternal grandparents lived and my mother, Harriet Rosander, grew up. My grandfather was the Lord Mayor for life there. My parents were both artists, from different class backgrounds, and were traveling in the north of Sweden with a joint exhibition when my mother 'happened' to go into labour in her native city. She had never been to see a doctor during the pregnancy and suffered badly from deficiencies and from postnatal depression during which time my grandmother had to care for me. This was ironic since my grandparents had completely disapproved of the fact that my mother had 'married below her class' and they saw my father as a rough upstart.

 
My father, Gustav Sjöö, was from a poor peasant/working class background, the youngest of ten children. That he was able to train as an artist at all was a miracle and it was in the art school in Stockholm that my parents met. They went on to the Art Academy together and when they left from there they got married, much against my grandparents wishes.

For three years we lived in Växjö in the south of Sweden close to where my father's extended family lived in the countryside. My parents painted side by side, lived in a tiny place in an attic where there were no cooking facilities, bath or hot water. I remember the smell of turps and paint but not of cooking. I suffered from a lack of vitamins but half rotting oranges stored in our backyard saved me from scurvy. My parents were totally unpractical and my father basically didn't want me around.

My mother divorced him when I was three years old and we went back to live in Härnösand where my mother kept us both by painting portraits. I was however, the favourite subject of her art.

I loved the north with its great forests, rivers and thousands of lakes. I delighted in the winters with the crisp cold and the abundant snow, when we skied and skated and built snow houses. I loved the white nights around midsummer when it was light all night. All my best memories are of my childhood in the north and the summers up there on a farm where my grandparents were able to hire a cottage for us to live in.

When I was five I wanted to become a farmer and my first loves were cows, great gentle maternal beings who suffer badly and dogs, I milked the cows and helped with the haymaking. I thought I was a dog and had total telepathic communication with them.

 

I was until then a pretty and gracious child who was always dancing and singing but now I became awkward and put on weight and became self-conscious. I remember though at this time having premonitions in a waking dream of what I would do in my future life and I knew that somehow I had a destiny and a mission to fulfill.
Misery struck however, when my mother decided to move to live in Stockholm thinking that this would good for her career as an artist since she had studied and thought that she had friends there. This was however, a very great mistake. We got trapped in a tiny flat in a very dull neighbourhood on one of Stockholm's many islands. My mother never made the contacts she had been dreaming of and for the rest of her life she lived in poverty and obscurity although she was a talented artist. Meanwhile, my father who was much tougher than my very sensitive mother, had made it as an artist and received a lot of respect for being a peasant artist and true to his background.
It hadn't always been so. Matisse was the flavour of the day when my parents studied at the Art Academy and only bright primary colours were acceptable then. My father, however, who loved the land and the peasant cottages of his childhood, used earth colours and painted the world he knew well. He was rubbished during many years as being 'unaesthetic and crude' in his art. When he became famous however, after a major exhibition, the very same critics, who had put him down, now wrote that he was a great and original colourist. My father thought precious little of the class biased art world and its art critics and favouritisms, the 'malestream' art world as I call it. This knowledge stood me in good stead when I myself became the target of criticism and put downs for being a feminist artist.
I am proud of this side of my father but not of the fact that he competed with my mother when they lived together and hindered her career. My mother always said to me "don't become an artist, it is nothing but poverty and misery but if you do never marry another artist". She had seen many of her contemporaries, women artists who had been her friends, becoming the hostess in a male artist's home, having breakdowns and/or ending up in mental hospital. Her best friend, the talented writer Eva Meander, went into a lake and drowned herself even though she had had two books published.
My mother knew of no tradition of women artists in the past and felt alone and isolated while my father, in spite of his class background, bought into the myth of the male artist genius and compared himself to artists such as Goya and Delacroix. He said, like Renoir, that he painted with his prick and bragged to me about how he slept with the women who posed for him in the nude. I was twelve years old by then and spent summers with him watching him at his easel in all weathers painting in wild and beautiful locations on the east coast of Sweden. Around that time I remember coming across a book on William Blake's art in my father's studio and I was awestruck by its visionary quality.
In Stockholm my mother would take me along to see great exhibitions on Surrealism, Cubism, Italian Futurism etc. and the one that made a particular and lasting impression on me was the one of Mexican art. It was enormous and showed Pre Aztec and massive Aztec sculptures, Catholic art and the vibrant revolutionary paintings by Diego Rrvera, Frieda Kahlo and other artists. I was 15 years old at the time.
Living in Stockholm was however a misery for both of us. We were treated more or less as immigrant families are today. I spoke with a strong north country accent and wore plaits, a country girl. I was also naive and had a strong sense of justice. My mother wasn't able to tell a lie to save herself. My mother used to be mistaken for a gypsy. She had high cheekbones, work colourful clothes and headscarves and in the summers developed a high red brown skin colour. We were treated in a racist way and were ostracised. No girls were allowed to come and play with me in my home. I had to go to a school where there were 36 children in each class. I played truant and refused to go to school a lot of the time. My mother feared that social workers would take me away but what saved us is that I had a good head and did well in school in spite of the many absences. My mother had a fear all her life of people in white coats. She had spent many years in and out of hospitals as a child because she had been born with her feet turned inwards. She feared doctors, hospitals, and social workers. She walked with a bad limp and had pain in one deformed foot every step she took. She was a tall and strong, very beautiful woman who I loved very dearly. She was a dreamer, a natural anarchist and feminist. She detested all things "feminine" and never ever forced gender thinking on me, I was allowed to be and to find my own ways. My mother confided in me and I knew what she felt: her pain at not being able to paint as she needed to do because of poverty, her humiliation when treated with disrespect, the assumption at the time, being that women were ignorant and unknowing.

 

From early years I had to protect my mother against harsh unrealities and this made me much tougher than her. To be able to survive I had to lose some of my own innocence and became streetwise. I felt deprived, living in an urban landscape of concrete and ugliness. My parents were both nature mystics and this should have been my heritage too. Of course it was there in me but remained hidden during may years. My mother though used to draw for me the trolls she "saw", magical nature beings who are neither good nor bad and who could be as large as the mountains or as small as a pebble. There are moss-covered boulders everywhere in the northern boreal birch and pine forest and the legend goes that  they are trolls petrified by the sun. If a troll is caught out by the sun it either bursts or becomes a stone. Were the trolls an ancient Moon-worshipping people? I was especially entranced by the Huldra, or Queen of the forest, a goddess vilified by the Christians who demonised her. She is portrayed as a beautiful naked woman with long golden hair who lures lonely men to their death in the forest. Her backside however is a mass of rotting wood. She is the forest personified, a giver of life and death, of purification and of rebirth. A Nordic Kali figure or perhaps ancient Hel, who dwells in the mountains and cliffs, the most ancient Mother of the Nordic peoples.

So, my mother was a shamanic woman who belonged by a deep lake in the deep forest with me by her side. We were rebels together and she was an original dropout long before the 60's hippy era. She was an unsupported mother.


I was brought up by my grandparents to think that there was no alternative to going to church and being a practicing Christian. My grandfather, who I loved very much as a small child, sang in the church choir and had wanted to become an opera singer in his youth. It was only at the age of 12 that I realised that I didn't need to go with my grandparents to church. I had always felt intimidated in churches and the Christian faith was always meaningless to me. The first time I refused to go, I took my clothes off, danced naked and drew myself while looking in a mirror, all of this very symbolic of my future life. My grandfather soon decided that I was "heathen" and there was a great rift between us especially after I discovered socialist writers in my teens.

My only friend in those early years in Stockholm was another girl who was also an outcast, her mother a part-time prostitute and her step-father an alcoholic who turned into a monster when drunk. I couldn't believe the transformation and came early to understand the violence so many women and children are made to suffer in our society at the hands of men.

 

Picture above: Monica's Mother Harriet and Michael Von Tourchaninoff, Monica's stepfather on their wedding day.

My situation got infinitely worse when my mother remarried in 1949. My stepfather was a Russian, Michael de Tourchaninoff, of the old Tzarist nobility. He was stateless, an emigre, who hated the Russian Communist regime and imagined they had spies everywhere ready to murder him. My stepfather resented my presence and there was class warfare in the family as I was the daughter of a peasant and he the son of aristocrats. He was also deadly jealous but my mother loved him in spite of it all. Since we lived in a one room and kitchen flat there was nowhere for me to escape or hide, no room of my own. I slept and lived in the kitchen and was like a prisoner there during the 5 years Michael stayed with us he wouldn't allow me to have friends or go out. I missed out on being a teenager and even on the popular music of the time since my stepfather always listened to Radio Moscow. I was far more familiar with Russian choirs than with Elvis Presley. I became familiar with Russian culture as Michael read aloud to us all the great classical Russian writers in the evenings, such as Tolstoy, Gogol and Turgenjev. This is one good thing Michael did for me, he got me reading real literature instead of the girls-only slush. His family came from the Caucasus, he had Tartar-blood in his veins. He was a dark Russian and was treated in a racist way by mother's family and that I couldn't go along with although he was incredibly rightwing and was trying to drive me out of my mind. He would swear at me in five different languages and torture me psychically.

An influence on my life when I was 15 years old was reading Engel's book "The Origins of the family, private property and the state" and being taken by a young British Marxist, who was trying to educate and rescue me, to see Eisenstein's marvellous films, such as Potemkin and Alexander Nevskij. Of course my stepfather went spare. My brother Stephan was born when my mother was 42. I ran away from home and left school when I was 16 years old and was almost catatonic from depression and rejection. I was poor and homeless but took refuge with a group of surrealists/avantgardists/existencialists who met in a cellar cafe in the Old Town in Stockholm. I worked as a nude artists' model, which was humiliating for me but the only job I was able to hold down as nothing was expected of me. I was running the gauntlet between predatory male artists, out to seduce me and the 'beat-niks' who were reading Buddhist and Hindu scriptures, as well as Henry Miller and de Sade, and had the most appalling attitudes to women who they treated as members of a lesser species. Seeing this damaged me further and it also put me off all male centred religions for all time.

I was told in no uncertain terms that I'd have to pick a man to live with, for my own protection. It was my good luck that I chose a decent human being, a working class Dane, 10 years older than me, who was beautiful but disfigured from childhood polio. His mother was a cleaner in Copenhagen where we spent 4 months. The rest of the year I lived with Torben we spent in Gothenburg where I worked as a fulltime model in the prestigious Valand art school. I had wanted to go to art school myself when I left school but no chance of that because I was poor. I tended to say that this was my art school training, being the object in others' art. I felt treated as if I was a cross between an apple or chair and a part-time prostitute. At the time this was often the assumption and John Berger, the Marxist art historian, wrote in "Ways of Seeing" of how women are/were seen as sexual objects in men's art and he compares to portrayal of women in European male art with pornography and advertising. The woman always pleasing, to be bought and consumed by the male bourgeois buyer and viewer.

 

Picture above: Monica in her modelling days 

I was 17 when I left Sweden in 1955 with £20 in my pocket that I had saved from working in the summer on a graveyard, hitch hiking with a girl a year younger than me. We were heading for Paris and then the vineyards in south of France. We were delighted and amazed at the multi-racial cosmopolitan cultures first of Amsterdam and then Paris. Sweden at the time was very provincial and white and conformist and very few immigrants had arrived then. We worked as artists' models in the Paris art schools for a while and then headed south to Beziers in the Languedoc, the land that the Cathars once inhabited. I knew nothing of the terrible history of persecution and mass murder of the Gathers but I could somehow sense a sadness in the people and the land itself. We visited medieval Carcasonne and worked a month picking grapes in the vineyards. Hard work but it earned us enough to travel during a month in Franco's Spain. We visited Barcelona , and saw Gaudi's park there,( we stumbled upon it ) Valencia and traveled to Granada where we stayed a week and spent most of our time high up in the gypsy caves of SacreMonte. We had befriended some gypsy-boys who took us to their families. We saw a large elderly man 'King of the Gypsies' dance to rhythmic handclaps in a dark cave and we swapped Swedish folk songs for Flamenco singing. We loved the Alhambra, magnificent palace of the moors. We also saw the fear in the Spanish people and the poverty in Andalusia, we saw that the catholic church worked hand in glove with the fascist dictator, Franco, and that the only wealthy and well fed looking people were priests, monks, police and the military. While we were in Granada the Suez crisis broke out and the world could have been plunged into another war. We traveled as fast as we could back to France but on the way we managed to stop off in Madrid where I saw Goya's "Black paintings" at the Prado museum. We had nothing, not even a tent, sleeping bags or any such things, and in this situation we found amazing kindness and hospitality from people who were also poor. It revived my belief in the basic goodness of human nature, at least in the common people.

  

 

Picture above:

Stevan and Monica in Pozallo, Sicilly 1957

Back in Paris winter was approaching. We lived in a small hotel room with no heating and where water, which was left out, froze to ice. It was in Paris that I first came across real and rabid racism especially against North Africans. The war in Algeria was raging as Algeria, a French colony then, was fighting for its life and independence. We befriended Algerians, Moroccans, African Americans living in exile from "Babylon", and we heard their stories and felt their pain. My friend decided to return to Sweden for Xmas or "Jul" as we say in Sweden, a name kept from Pagan time. I had hoped to go back as well spending Jul with my mother and grandparents but they wouldn't let me. Being proud and stubborn I decided to stay in Paris but managed to get my mother to send me some warm clothes at least. In this situation, lonely and forlorn, I met my husband to be, Stevan Trickey, in a bar/cafe in St.Germain where English-speaking foreigners congregated. I moved in with him in a tiny room on the seventh floor in a block of flats, in the servant's quarters, off Boulevard St Michel. Soon we decided to go hitchhiking in Italy and we spent four months there. On the way, while traveling along the Mediterranean we 'stumbled' upon the gypsy festival, which is held every May at Les Saintes Maries de la Mer in the Camerque. Mv first meeting with a Black Madonna, the gypsies ' Sarah La Kali.' 

It was rough traveling in Italy as we again had no money and there were many potentially dangerous situations. I was appalled at the predatory attitudes of Italian men and disappointed because I had grown up on stories of how wonderful Italy was.  My parents had spent a year painting in Taormina on Sicily before I was born. My mother spoke Italian and they both loved Italian opera, which I heard a lot of as a child. I worked privately as an artist's model in Rome, a city I disliked. We saw the wealth of the imperial Vatican city and its art treasures such as Michelangelo's Sistine chapel. I was doing small drawings and pastels as we traveled. We went south over Calabria to Sicily where we traveled along the east coast and ended up living a whole month in the home of the communist artist Rudolfo Christina in Pozzallo ,a village or small town on the south coast. I remember being introduced in Catania to the great socialist painter Renato Gutuso. In Paris I had seen the American artist, Sam Francis in his studio working up ladders on huge canvases of "skyscapes" He had been an airpilot.

In Pozzallo we spent much time with our friends in the headquarters of the local communist party. We also took part in a May-day demonstration in a town nearby, singing "The Red Flag" (Bandera Rossa). I saw how the Catholic church oppressed the women who were continuously pregnant, on their knees in the churches and dressed in black as if in perpetual mourning. All the time we traveled in Italy I felt  the priests and monks as an evil presence and I feared them.

Our stay in Pozzallo ended abruptly when we discovered that there were plans afoot to kidnap me and set me up in a brothel. We also couldn't believe the hypocrisy of the people there when they all agreed that a man had been justified when he stabbed his wife many times because he had found her with a lover. The same men who condemned her had been bragging to us about their mistresses in nearby villages. Experiences like this contributed to me becoming a feminist in later years.

 

After many further adventures we ended up in Stockholm where we married in the registrar office because we were planning to go and live in Bristol in England, in the home of Stevan's parents. His mother, a Celt from the Shetland Islands, became my life long friend. Stevan was escaping military service and therefore we didn't officially exist in England, something that got difficult when I got pregnant. We lived a winter in St. Ives where we were able to hire a large studio/home above the Penwith gallery. I was starting to paint then and we were drawn there because of the artist colony centred around Barbara Hepworth and others. I discovered though that there was a tyranny of abstraction and figurative art was unacceptable.

As I got more pregnant we returned to Sweden where our son, Sean, was born in 1959 in a hospital. It was a bad experience as I was put to sleep for no reason at all and felt alienated from my child as a result. We were given emergency housing on the outskirts of Stockholm far away from my mother and brother. Stevan trained as a silversmith and I was left alone all day suffering from post natal depression and unable to cope with my son. During this unhappy period I did some visionary pastels while listening as in a trance to Hebrew sacred music. Many of Stevan's fellow workers were Jewish silversmiths who had lost their families in the concentration camps. My situation was not helped by the fact that we lived in just one room with a non-functional small kitchen, no hot water, no bath and the toilet three flights down.

We returned to Bristol when military service was ended for good and my second son, Toivo, was born there in 1961. This was a natural homebirth, it changed my entire life, initiated me to the Great Mother and it was love at first sight. So, so different from the hospital birth. (See the text to my painting "God giving birth"). I was painting, learning my craft, doing part-time courses, in sculpture, in etching etc. and making jewellery with my husband. It was interesting thinking in terms of form and seeing how different metals behave.

I came across first "The Second Sex" by Simone de Beauvoir, and then Robert Graves "The White Goddess" in the early 60s, and those two books changed my life, especially coming after that homebirth which had already set me questioning what this patriarchal culture is all about as it diminishes, disempowers and desacrilises women. I realised why I was angry!

 

Picture above: Toivo, newborn, in Bristol 1961 with his parents Stevan and Monica.

I also realised that I had to get out of the marriage and change my life. I had an exhibition in a small gallery in Bristol in 1964 and in it I showed my first attempt at a woman centred painting which was also figurative. The other paintings were more abstract studies in black and white, partly inspired by the vision I had at my son's birth of great radiant light alternating with deep luminous blackness. It was as if the Great Mother had shown Herself to me in Her pure cosmic energy form. In the painting, which I called "Birth", I tried to catch that experience of flying amongst the stars at the same time as my body was very physically bleeding and in pain. I was shocked to find that people thought it was obscene, crude ,and that I shouldn't have shown such a painting in public. In Patriarchy men are sacred and women profane.

I decided there and then that I would dedicate my life to creating paintings that speak of women's lives, our history and sacredness. I had never realised until I read Robert Graves book that there had been religions and cultures based in women's values and perceptions and I spent many years after that reading everything I could find about ancient women cultures and the religion of the Great Mother. I was also accepted at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 1964 to study theatre design. I was, however, not made for the theatre but it got me away from the home and I learnt about Brecht, the revolutionary dramatist, and studied plays such as Oedipus Rex and the Duchess of Malfi. I was always appalled at the powerlessness of women in most plays we studied and the way they were always used as pawns by the men around them. While studying Oedipus Rex I came across an image of the Theban Sphinx who seemed to speak to me, even haunt my dreams. She is woman, lion, vulture/dragon at the same time and she stems from the Phoenician Bronze age colonies in Greece. She is the Goddess of the Underworld and protector of the dead. I also had revelations seeing images from archaic Greek sculptures and vases of powerful bisexual women of great dignity and beauty. They were giving me messages of another world and time when women were the creators of cultures.

I got to know a group of people who were grassroots poets and artists, some of them gay or bisexual. This was the time when Britain and the USA went through a cultural psychedelic revolution and exploded in colour and music as the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and later ,Bob Marley, made their appearance. Life changed for the betterr, I left Stevan and lived with a man 19 years old. I was in love for the first time and for a while life felt good.

My mother died suddenly and unexpectedly, 54 years old, from a stroke. I hadn't seen her for 6 years and had been planning to visit her that summer of 1965. Now I traveled over to Sweden for her funeral and finding that I was able to take over the flat I decided to stay. I was joined by my lover and my son Toivo. I lived the next two years in Stockholm and got involved there in the anti- Vietnam war movement, which was partly led by some powerful women, and started to organise the Vietnam exhibitions that raised money for NLF who were fighting the Americans in Vietnam. We had ongoing study groups where I learnt about US Imperialism in the world. My job was also to get artists to donate work to the exhibition and to discuss their political involvement. I was sometimes threatened with violence. I had a small studio and did a lot of paintings during this time and worked as an assistant to the great artist Siri Derkert who was in her 60s then and had been a lifetime socialist feminist. A lot of learning for me on all fronts. I experimented with doing paintings exploring the nude male, which was seen as shocking. In Sweden, home of hardcore pornography, my art was censured! To show an erected male penis was utter taboo. During this time I made some important friendships with radical artists such as the African American Black Power artist Cliff Jackson, the Norwegian gay artist Kjartan Slettemark and many others.

 

Picture above: Toivo and Sean in the mid 60's

When I had a one woman show in 1967 in Stockholm I found that my comrades in the Vietnam committee disapproved of the fact that I explored my sexuality as a woman in my paintings, only paintings of protest against the war were acceptable to them. I was hurt and disappointed and left soon after to go back to Bristol as my young son missed his older brother and his father. I had been abandoned by my lover and was unhappy.

In the hot summer of 1968 I found myself with my son in New York and up in New York state where I had a job as an arts and crafts counselor in a camp run by Jewish civil rights workers for deprived children from the inner city. There were children there from the ages of 8 to 18, African Americans and Puerto Ricans mixed in with Jewish, Italian, Irish children who came from better off families. A strange and dangerous mixture. Racism was rampant and difficult to tackle, as "black is beautiful" was only just becoming a concept to take seriously. There was warfare! The Black Panthers marched that summer.

I was rescued by New York anarchists who I had contacted and spent time staying with Murray and Bea Bookchin on the tenth floor of a skyscraper near the Bowery. I met many revolutionaries such as Weathermen, street fighting anarchists etc. while staying there. I just missed the very first militant feminist action - in protest against the Miss World competition at Atlantic city, but met some of the women soon after. Women were angered by the fact that in all the so-called revolutionary movements of the 60s women were still expected to make the tea and look after the children. The "Sexual Liberation" of hippiedom was also still on men's terms. I had found in the Vietnam groups in Stockholm that I couldn't even begin to speak of what the natural homebirth in 1961 had meant for me. May 1968 was the near revolution in France led by anarchist Situationists. I was involved with the anarchist movement first in Britain and then in Sweden where I worked with Provie/Provos in Stockholm and in Gothenburg. I was well aware though of the sexism of anarchist men. There were a few exceptions. Over the New Year of 1967 I took part with some Swedish comrades in an international Anarchist conference in Milano and was arrested there together with some Dutch Provos (from "provoke") after a demonstration at Piazza Duomo (cathedral square) and was deported from Italy. When the Maoists who dominated the Vietnam committee discovered that I saw myself as an Anarcha-feminist I was just about expelled. It was in 1968 also that I painted "God giving birth". I had started it before I went to USA and finished it when I came back. In 1969 my father died from cancer and I married Andrew Jubb, a brilliant but alcoholic pianist and composer who was of a Jewish family and grew up in Africa, in Zambia, which he loved  passionately. My life got very complicated as I got pregnant by Cliff Jackson my long term but occasional lover, in Stockholm and gave birth to my mixed race son Leify while at the same time I had recently married Andy. He, however, fell totally  in love with the child and all was well. A few of us founded Bristol Women's Liberation group that same year and a first women's conference took place in 1970 at Ruskin College. We had originally formed to support women at a Ford factory who went on strike for equal pay, unheard of at the time. Our one women's group expanded to many over the years and took in many grass roots campaigns and consciousness raising groups. In 1970 I took part with some paintings in an arts council sponsored arts festival in St Ives where "God giving birth" and some other of my paintings were censured and not allowed to be shown anywhere in the town. It caused a scandal and I was traumatised as I was breastfeeding at the time and felt vulnerable. I was shocked also that the artists, like Barbara Hepworth, in St Ives made no protest nor did they give me any support at all. I decided that if I was to exhibit I wanted to do so with a group of women artists so I couldn't be targeted or hunted as a witch on my own. I wrote a letter, which was published in one of the first women's newsletters of the time, asking for women to join me. We had a first collective show in 1971 of ten feminist artists at Woodstock gallery in London. Amongst the artists was Liz Moore who recently had returned from New York where she had been part of a women artists group. We became lifelong friends. Another artist, Anne, Berg, had contacted me from Manchester and together we wrote a "Feminist arts manifesto". I also produced some newsletters called "Towards a feminist revolutionary art", on a gestetmer and stencils. Our aim now was to have major show of feminist art somewhere in London. I stayed a week in London, supported by my friend John Sharkey (author of "Celtic Mysteries" and former manager of the ICA gallery) and visited galleries, the Arts Council etc. Everywhere I was met with a total lack of understanding of why we wanted a women's only exhibition and it took years, until 1973, before our dream came true. We were then at last offered a show by Peter Carey who managed the great hall/exhibition space at Swiss Cottage Library in Camden Town. In the meanwhile I had had an exhibition of my paintings including "God giving birth", in 1969 I think, at the experimental and hip Arts Lab in Drury Lane before it was shut down. Its director then was the American, Jim Haynes. We called our exhibition "5 women artists - Images of Womanpower" and the five of us were Liz Moore, Anne Berg, Beverly Skinner, myself and (Canadian) Roslyn Smythe. Peter Carey, for reasons of his own, placed the 6 feet tall "God giving birth" where it faced everyone coming into the library. Inevitably scandal broke out as the Pornography squad of Scotland Yard and the Public Prosecutor were called to the library by one of its employees, a fundamentalist Christian. The "Festival of Light" was active at the time. The complaint was that my painting was "obscene and blasphemous". I wasn't taken to court but in the meantime "God giving birth" was reproduced in many newspapers and as a result the exhibition was visited by great crowds of people. It was scary though and I thought that my paintings would be destroyed and the exhibition had to be guarded day and night. What Christians found offensive about my painting wasn't just that "God" is giving birth but also that She is an African woman. Africans and Indian Hindus who saw the exhibition all said that there are images of the Goddess giving birth in their cultures, but they were not known to me at the time. The painting had been inspired by my own experience of natural birth. It was strange that Picasso died on the first day of our show and my beloved Siri Derkert in Sweden on the last day!

 

Picture above: Monica and artist/friend Beverly Skinner at an exhibition

I had said for years that I experienced that ancient women were communicating with me and now, during this high state of fear and tension during our "Womanpower" show in London, I had a kind of Zen experience when I "knew" that past, present and future co-exist and that therefore it is entirely possible for ancient women to reach us now from another time/space.

"God giving birth" was reproduced in a Swedish daily paper and as a result I was visited by a Swedish feminist artist, Anna Sjodahl, who invited me to exhibit with her in the grand state funded arts hall in Lund in south of Sweden. After many difficulties and complications, not least to do with money and how to get 30 large paintings on hardboard, to Sweden, the exhibition finally happened. We called it "Women's lives" and it was magnificent. I experienced though that women artists at the time received far less economic and other support than male artists. I could also tell horror stories about traveling with a small child, I had taken my son, Leify, then four years old with me, during the exhibition and being put up by strangers. We were lucky though that 1970-80 was the UN "Decade of women". Our exhibition was given priority because of this and it traveled to Norway and to Finland as well as to several venues in Sweden during a period of two years. In 1975 it was included in a huge exhibition called "Womenfolk" (Kvinn-folk) shown at the house of Culture in Stockholm. It showed 7 women's exhibitions in one and occupied the whole of the vast fourth floor gallery space. In the meantime I was involved in the Gay women's group in Bristol and some paintings, like the six feet tall "The Lovers'' came out of this period. I also worked with the budding Matriarchy movement that was started in London by women such as Asphodel (Pauline) Long. In 1975 I was invited to give a talk about the Goddess at a WEA class in Birmingham, run by Keith Paton of Alternative Socialism. Since I wasn't sure what I did think I spent a month, very inspired, looking through the vast notes I had accumulated from many years of reading and wrote 30 packed A3 pages. I didn't know at the time what a paragraph was and it came out like a "stream of consciousness". No way could I go through all that material during a short class. I did read a bit and afterwards was asked by several of the women if they could type out the article to be run off on stencils so they could all have a copy to read. They ran off 500 ex. and that was the beginning of "The Great cosmic Mother" book! I took part in, and exhibited my paintings, at a number of National Women Liberation conferences such as at Acton Town Hall in 1972 and took part in the "Sistershow" performed in Bristol. In 1975 there was a Womanspirit conference at Wick court outside of Bristol organised by the Student Christian movement which was radical at the time. I was invited as one of its main speakers although I am  not a Christian. I extended the Cosmic Mother pamphlet in time for the conference and gave a talk abut the Goddess as sacred Serpent which shocked many women there, especially the brilliant Mary Condren, who is an Irish Catholic and had been a nun when still a child. She had been the first speaker and we clashed but then became friends.

Years later Mary went to USA, studied under Mary Daly and wrote a scathing criticism of the misogyny of the Catholic Church in a book called "The Serpent and the Goddess".

 

Picture above: Toivo & Monica at Durdham Park Community in 1979

I stayed in Paris with Maj Skadegaard, a Danish artist and filmmaker and her then lover, Renate Stendhal, a poet and through the lesbian community there I got contact with Jean and Ruth Mountaingrove, publishers of the "Womanspirit" journal in Oregon. I sent the Cosmic Mother pamphlet to them and they were interested. They put me in contact with Barbara Mor, a passionate poet who then lived in Taosin, New Mexico. They wanted her to edit my text but being involved herself in the study of Goddess cultures and having great knowledge, she got inspired and extended the text to twice its length. For the next number of years we sent the MS forth and back across the ocean writing and rewriting the text but never meeting. Barbara lived in great poverty with a number of children, an unsupported mother and was/is politically very radical. There were many similarities between us.

While in Paris I remember being taken by Renate to meet the late Meret Oppenheim in her studio. I was honoured to see her at work.

In February 1978 I had a major initiation to the Great Mother when I visited Avebury, Silbury mound and West Kennet long barrow for the first time. I had read Michael Dames' books "Silbury Treasure, the Great Goddess rediscovered" and "Avebury circle" when they first came out a year or so before and as a result I had started doing a large painting. I found, however, that I couldn't continue with it unless I experienced the sacred site for myself. I went there with my then partner, I had left Andy who was drinking himself to death, and we ate a salad in which there were sacred mushrooms. In an altered state I fully experienced the Standing Stones of Avebury and Silbury, the pregnant womb of the Earth. For the first time did I 'know' that Mother Earth is truly alive as I could see Her breathing and undulating. I also felt Her great pain and after this I had to leave the city and live close to Her in Her changes. Until then I had been under the impression that the standing stones were irrelevant to my life and what I had seen of the Earth Mystery movement, and its journal the Ley Hunter seeker, was very male dominated and patriarchal. I saw in my mind's eye men with guns stalking the ley lines! After my own experience, however, I spent many years after 1978 seeking out the sacred Neolithic centres of the ancient Great Mother, pilgrimaging to the sacred land in England, Ireland, Cornwall, Scotland, Brittany, communing with the spirits and connecting with other women such as artists Lynne Wood (Australian), Jill Smith and later Cheryl Straffon, all involved in Earth Mysteries. John Sharkey was also on the same path and a friend.

I finished my painting "The Goddess at Avebury and Silbury", which was eight feet long and I took the painting to that year's "Festival of Mind and Body" in London and together with Bristol based artist, Beverly Skinner, had stalls at the festival which otherwise was totally male dominated.

My experience at Silbury also inspired me to get together a collective exhibition that we called "Woman Magic, celebrating the Goddess within us". We were Marika Tell, a Swedish artist, Beverly Skinner and myself and later we were joined by Anne Berg and Lynne Wood. It traveled to nine venues in the UK and was shown in libraries, theatre foyers etc. and was supported by the Matriarchy study groups. In 1983 we were invited to show in the multimedia "Huset" (the House) in Copenhagen thanks to a contact I had made when a speaker in Denmark at an Anarchist conference, two years earlier. We were sent the money to buy a transit van and we drove the large exhibition, going by ferry but with no official papers ,which would have cost a lot of money to obtain..One was' supposed to have such ''carnes''as there was no EU at the time. From Denmark the exhibition travelled in Germany where it was shown in Braunschweig, then in Cologne and at the Frauenrnuseum  (Women's Museum) in Bonn and finally in Dortmund, everywhere it was looked after by women's groups. I  spent a lot of time traveling and being with the show and giving slideshow/talks. As a result of my talk in Braunschweig some women translated and Gisela Ottmer published The Great Cosmic Mother book 1985 in German and started a publishing co. called Labyrinth. The book had been published first, in English, by the Norwegian "Rainbow Press" in Trondheim in 1981 after many adventures trying to find a publisher for it. There were many hair-raising moments when we traveled across borders with a van full of paintings, to Germany from Denmark and then from Germany to Sweden, where Woman Magic stayed many months being shown at the Women's centre in Stockholm .It was finally shown in four cities in Finland.

I had lived in Bristol with my sons in a large community squat, Durdham Park Community, during the year 1979-80 but when we were violently evicted from there (thanks to the Darlington Hall Trustees who owned it) I went to live in a cottage in a tiny hamlet not far from St. David's and Fishguard in South West Wales with my partner and mixed race son, Leify. We had many friends and good contacts with the Tipi village in the Black mountains not far away near Llandeilo. I loved the Presseli mountains, the sea and wild costal paths, the dark nights when the Milky way was visible because there was no electric pollution. I pilgrimaged again and again to the many sacred sites such as St Non's well at St David's, Pentre Ifan Cromlech on the slopes of the Presseli's and Nevern church and graveyard with its beautiful celtic cross and Bleeding Yew. All incredibly sacred places that inspired my paintings. I did a lot of work in our damp little cottage the five years we lived there, 1980-85. I got in contact for the first time with the Celtic spirit in the land, and the Celtic ancestral goddesses - such as Rhiannon, Brigid, Cerridwen, came totally alive to me and in my paintings. We sometimes met with a coven. I had many visionary experiences while living there. We followed the Moon in Her changes, grew a garden and loved Mother Earth.

My son, however, was not happy. He experienced racism at school and had a fraught relationship with my partner who was jealous of him at home. Things were not well.

 

Picture above: Monica and Leif in Copenhagen 1981

In 1982 I travelled with my Swedish friend Pia Lasker, a Swedish Anacha-feminist, up to Lewis on the Outer Hebrides to be there with friends to witness summer solstice amongst, the magical Callanish stones. This was a first visit to the Western isles and later, when Jill Smith lived up there with her young son Taliesin, I visited a number of times and always returned doing important paintings and having written poems. Pia and I also visited Greenham Common and during the next few years I would sometimes stay at the Greenham women's camps. I took part in the marvelous action when 20,000 women surrounded the US missile base and decorated the fences with spider's webs, baby rompers, photos of their grandmothers etc. A very powerful moment and direct action art. We worked with a Peace group in Fishguard and I was also involved with women for life on Earth. In 1985 Greenham women called women to a Walk across Salisbury Plane military firing ranges/MOD land in May. We, ca. 100 women, met at Silbury mound where we did a ritual and slept on Her belly in the near full moon light that night. For the next 2-3 days we walked the barren and desolate military land continuously threatened with imprisonment as we were followed by police. For some reason the police were always called off at the last minute from arresting us and we felt like an invincible army of sisters, who were somehow magically protected. Starhawk, the American witch, was on the walk and led rituals to centre and empower us. I met Musawa, American publisher of the We'Moon diaries. For me this was a fateful meeting as it turned out. We were heading for Stonehenge which I felt uneasy about but the Greenham women felt that they wanted to liberate the stones from the (razor wire fences put up in preparation for the, by then annual, struggle between police and freaks, who felt that Stonehenge belongs to the people and wanted to celebrate summer solstice amongst the stones. That summer of 1985 was the "Battle of the Beanfield" when the vehicles of "New Age travelers " were violently smashed by police and dreams shattered.

There was a Full Moon lunar eclipse that Beltane/Mayday. We cut our way through the barbed-wire fences and drummed and chanted and then watched the eclipse in silent awe, praying to the lunar Mother. Many more women had joined us then, from London and other places. Later that summer in August I and my son, Leify, then 15 years old, hitchhiked down to the South of France to stay with Musawa and her German lover, Nada. They owned a herb farm near Tarbes not far from Lourdes in the foothills of the Pyrenees. It was beautiful there. In 1985, my paintings were included in the 'Women Artists in Wales" exhibition, which traveled to three cities in North and South Wales.

Two years earlier we had stayed over New Year with a friend who lived in a small town in Catalonia close to the sacred white Montserrat mountain with its Black Madonna who we visited. I experienced the Madonna's miraculous healing powers and explored the mountain with its strange rock pinnacles looking like giant women up there beneath the sky.

This summer of 1985 we visited Lourdes on Maria's ascension day, 15th August, when vast numbers of pilgrims come to ask the Virgin for help and healing. It was amazing to behold, 40,000 pilgrims in the dark, all holding candles and signing Ave Maria. Even my teenage son was enchanted. We drank the holy waters and that night he danced with me, the one and only time, at a peasants' party. Eleven days later my son was dead, run down by a car as he ran across a road. It was August Bank Holiday Monday 26 August and I saw him dying on that road. The only thing that kept me sane was that I saw his face utterly peaceful in death.

My life stopped at that moment and would never be the same. I wanted to die. Soon after my oldest son, Sean, 26 years old, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and needed to be treated in Bristol. He had moved to the cottage in Wales to give me support and now I went to Bristol to live with him there as he went through Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy treatments. He died two years later but by then we had had the time to prepare ourselves for his death. We had frequented a spiritualist church, spent time at the Cancer Help Centre, studied near death experiences and psychic phenomena etc. I had experienced traveling with my brain-dead son, Leify, in the hospital in Bayonne into a great light and a loving presence and needed to somehow understand this. We had buried his ashes in a little African drum in the Tipi Village.

My son, Sean, had unfortunately got involved with Rebirthers, New Agers who are mercenary and don't know what they are doing. Sean relapsed while he was seeing them and I can't help feeling that they contributed to him becoming ill again and dying. I read their books after my son's death and was appalled at what I was reading. I felt now that I needed to study and expose the New Age movement that the Rebirthers are a part of. I had been present at very dubious New Age events, all very patriarchal, misogynist, racist and rightwing in their assumptions.

 

Photo above: Photo of Monica's oldest son Sean in his early twenties. Like his Mother and his Grandparents, Sean was a talented artist. Tragically he became ill with terminal cancer and lived the last couple of years of his life with Monica in Bristol. 

I spent the next five years working on a book which was published by The Women's Press in London in 1992 called "New Age and Armageddon: the Goddess or the gurus". It was extended and republished in USA, in Texas in 1998 and called then "Return of the Dark/Light Mother or New Age Armageddon". "The Great Cosmic Mother" had in the meantime been published, also in the USA in 1987 by Harper S. F. They had wanted the book vastly expanded but at the time we were offered the contract, Sean and I were homeless and barely alive and so it was left to Barbara Mor to do the work, unfortunately, the only paintings I did during this two year period of intense grief and supporting Sean were "Lament for my young son, Why, Oh Why?" and "Rebirth from the Motherpot", where I imagine my young son rising reborn from a. lotus in a Neolithic pot, the Mother's womb. I painted "My sons in the Spiritworld" after returning from Lewis the year of the major Lunar standstill in 1987, when the Lunar Mother danced over the Silver Maiden/Sleeping Beauty Mountain, which is visible from Callanish stones.

I had been visited in lucid dreams by Andy, my husband, who had died in 1981, only 36 years old, his pancreas rotten from alcohol. Leify also appeared and communicated with me in lucid dreams and there-fore I "know" that we live on in another dimension or reality. In the meanwhile, when I wasn't able to travel, our WomanMagic exhibition went to Finland where my friend, Kari Mattila organised it and it was shown in four cities. She then brought all the work to the Women's high school in Gothenburg where it was looked after for the next four years until the Women's Arts Museum/Museum Anna Nordlander in Skelleftea in north of Sweden, brought it up there for a major exhibition of my work in 1994 and bought "God giving birth" for their collection.I have to thank Swedish feminist art historian Barbro Werkmaster for making all this come about and drawing the attention of the museum to my work.

 In 1989 I took part with Jill Smith, Philippa Bowers and Joanna Corner in an exhibition that we called "The Goddess Re-emerging" at the Glastonbury assembly rooms. Alice Walker came to this show as did Joan Marler bringing with her the first copy of the Lithuanian Archaeologist, Marija Gimbutas' book /Language of the Goddess". We had a program of events and slideshows during the two weeks, also a women's only discussion  about "New Age Patriarchy", as I called it. After that we had a major national conference in Malvern, organised by Maggie Parks and her friends, called "Challenging New Age Patriarchy" and out of all this energy generated was born "From the Flames - a Journal of Politics and Spirit" which was edited by Vron Mclntyre and Maggie Parks. For the next ten years, until its demise, I wrote innumerable articles for the journal and many both political and spiritual issues were discussed. "No spirituality without politics"!

I got involved doing workshop/talks/slideshows, with first the Oak Dragon camps in the summers and then the Rainbow camps. The first time 1 gave a talk at a Rainbow camp, about Goddess art, was during our Glastonbury exhibition in 1989. It was the Autumn/Equinox and there I met Marianna Chapland who asked me if I would be into helping to start a Bristol women's spirituality group with her and Ros Beauhill. So, AMA MAWU was born and has grown and thrived and changed all over the years. We did/do rituals at the Full and sometimes Dark Moons and also direct political action at times, we visited sacred sites such as Avebury and many a time we slept on Silbury in the light of the Full moon. AMA means to breast-feed/mother/grandmother in different languages and MAWU is a great West-African Goddess. We have always been active against racism, the war against Iraq, GM foods and Globalisation. The Spiral (women's only) camps were also born and thrived.

 

Picture above: Monica, Pam Thomas, Annie (Toivo's longstanding partner), Tezra (grandson), Toivo and Katy (granddaughter) on a beach in Pembrokeshire, 1992


I have often revisited South Wales and her sacred sites all over the years with my friend Pamela Thomas, who is Welsh and lives near Carmarthen. We had before then lived many years as an extended family, me and my partner and child and she with her lesbian partner in Bristol and in Wales.

In May 1993 AMA MAWU organised a national conference that we called "Breaking the Taboos/Breaking the Silence" in Bristol and the workshops were run jointly by African Caribbean and white "Caucasian" women questioning racism. During a planning meeting for the conference I mentioned that I'd had the daydream for many years that I wanted to go into a church or cathedral during mass and confront the priest/vicar/bishop about how the church blasphemes against the Great Mother and excludes women. This inspired the women and during the conference fifteen of us gathered outside Bristol Cathedral on Sunday morning, we walked in and stood in front of the high altar stopping the mass. We sang "Burning Times" about the Witch hunts to the congregation. This was one of the most awesome, fearful, liberating and powerful moments of my entire life, (see "Cathedral event"). It was fitting that I carried a poster of "God giving birth" into the cathedral, considering how it has been persecuted by Christians. We also set the date for the "The Beginning of the End of Patriarchy" and on the Lammas August Full Moon women gathered at Silbury to celebrate and danced in great circles on the Mother's womb.

In 1988 I had been invited to take part in California, in a West coast moat of Earth Mysteries which was organised by Christopher and Leila Castle who ran a small gallery together in Point Reyes near S. F. They became great friends of mine and during many, early visits to California I stayed with them in their beautiful home. Chris is an English Earth Mysteries artist and in 1990 we exhibited together in an exhibition that we called "The Stones and the Goddess", at the Gaia bookstore gallery in Berkeley. Alice Walker sponsored my journey and transport of paintings to the USA. During visits in the states I traveled to many places such as British Columbia in Canada where I did slide show/talks in Vancouver and on the islands, as well as in Oregon where Musawa now lives back on her Women's land near Portland. I made many connections, I met the artist, Betty La Duke in Oregon and Goddess women such as Vicki Noble, Z Budapest, Starhawk, Shekhinah Mountainwater, Luisah Teish (African American priestess of Oshun), Arisika Razak, Jsultrim Allione and many others. In 1990 I also traveled down to Arizona where I gave a slideshow to the mainly lesbian community in Phoenix, and was taken to visit Sedona, sacred native American land of red earth and rocks, taken over by affluent white New Agers. I saw the ancient rock carved settlements, and holy well shrine around a sacred sring or lake,by the ''Sinagua'' people.

In Vancouver at a Museum I had seen the incredible and majestic cedar-wood carved "totems" of the indigenous peoples of British Columbia and breathtakingly beautiful and powerful carved art objects that stunned me.

From Arizona I traveled to Albuquerque in New Mexico to at last meet Barbara Mor in the flesh. I was met at the airport by her and Sonia Johnson, who was at the time a firebrand feminist. Unfortunately there were many misunderstandings between Barbara and myself and the meeting was very traumatic! While there I also visited Meinrad Craighead, the former nun, in her adobe home and saw her beautiful art in action.

In 1988 I had also spent time in LA with the feminist art historian Gloria Orenstein and visited Marija Gimbutas in her home up one of the Canyons outside the city. A Swedish feminist art historian who has been very important in my life is Barbro Werkmaster and also in Sweden the feminist Goddess artist Cilia Ericsson. In 1994 I was included in an exhibition called "With your own face on" which was curated by the British Artist, Susan Morland and traveled to several venues in the UK and before then also in 1994 both Susan and I had taken part in "Fantasy", an exhibition curated by Siumee Keelan, that traveled in the United Arab Emirate and was an exchange exhibition with Arab women artists. As a result I was invited to send work to the arts Biennale in Sharia in 1994. That same year, in May 1994, I took part in the first International Goddess Conference held in a camp near Santa Cruz in California. It was organised by Z Budapest, the Hungarian witch and the Women's Spirituality Forum. The conference became biannual and every second year until 2002 I traveled to S. F. to give talks and slideshows at these conferences. There I befriended Genny La Morgan and her partner Donna and they became like my family whenever I came to the USA. Other women I befriended were Leilani, Hawaiian Priestess and the brilliant ''herstorian'' Max Dashu. At the first Goddess Conference, where I spoke about the New Age movement, I met Janet McCloud, a native American grassroots activist who spoke about "Whose tradition is it anyway" about the theft of the New Age movement of the rituals and ceremonies of indigenous peoples. When I was asked to give a key speech at the first Glastonbury Goddess Conference in 1995 I got Janet invited to give a speech about "The Hopi prophesies for women". Over the years I have sometimes taken part in the yearly Goddess conferences in Glastonbury and have many times exhibited paintings there, the last time in August 2003 at the conference celebrating the "Nine Morgans".(Janet Mc Cloud died,sadly,25 Nov.2003.

In 1992 I had traveled with my friend, Dale Wakefield, from Bristol, to Malta and Gozo, which was a dream come true at last. There we spaced out in the great Neolithic temples that were created to reproduce the body of the gigantic Mother Goddess, powerful as Earth Herself. We traveled in the winter when flights and accommodation are cheap, but being close to Africa the climate is still warm then. When we returned from Malta I felt a great need to do some paintings again on a large scale but living in a tiny flat I wasn't able to do so. Dale very generously gave me a room in her house where I could paint and also store my paintings. A Goddess send! I worked there during the next ten years until 2002 and did many important paintings.

We, and sometimes on my own, returned to Malta 4-5 times over the years and I've always come back from there inspired and full of images and dreams. On Malta and Gozo I also discovered, and was introduced to, many Black Madonnas by Willow, editor of the important international "Goddessing" journal and by Cloe Mifsud, Marlene Saliba, Maltese poet, first brought me to the beautiful Tarxien temple and saw me crying there because of grief at what we have lost as women. Finally, on a much later visit, we were able at last to descend into the Goddess underworld at the Hypogeum, full of spirits. I did many paintings during this period.

I was operated on for breast cancer in 1997 and after a month of radio-therapy I lost any creative impulse but had the hunch that if I went to Malta and Gozo and prayed to the Mother goddess there I would be able to paint again. I travelled on my own and was able to stay with friends on Gozo within walking distance of the great Gaigantija temple (House of the Giantess) where I did drawings every day. I finished several mixed media images during this time and they were included in the "Neolithia" exhibition of works by Maltese, American and other nationalities, artists 2001/2. Mari Mifsud, the Maltese organiser, had also put on the II Mara and Malta and Beyond multinational shows, shown on Malta and in the USA, that I also had participated in 1998 and 1999.

Other influences on my life and work were my journeys to Andalusia in Spain. I went there sometimes to stay with my beloved friend Eveon and John from the Tipi village in Wales who were now living at Beneficio, a Rainbow village of tipis on the mountain ledges of the Alpujarras above Orgiva. There I sensed strongly the presence of the spirits of the dark Moors, who had lived in Andalusia during 700 years and turned the region into fertile land in the eighth to the fifteen centuries. I loved the mountains, the sun drenched almost African land, its Madonnas and harsh wilderness. This was land also colonised by the Phoenicians, a Semitic sea-faring people who founded the great city of Cathage in Tunisia in the ninth century BC. I became fascinated by La Dama de Elche, probably a priestess of Tanit, the Great Berber-Phoenician Goddess of Carthage. After I visited Tunisia in the winter of 2002 I spent the summer researching our African origins as well as the indigenous North African Berber people and the mysteries of Tanit and Phoenician Asht'art of Lebanon.

 
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©2020  Monica Sjöö