The Malta Independent 21 October 2019, Monday

Mind the (everpresent) gap

Marika Azzopardi Tuesday, 26 March 2019, 10:17 Last update: about 8 months ago
Left from right, Rupert Cefai Chairman Spazju Kreattiv, Dr Tracy Prince, Elyse Tonna Curatorial Associate, Dr Toni Sant Artistic Director Spazju Kreattiv.
Left from right, Rupert Cefai Chairman Spazju Kreattiv, Dr Tracy Prince, Elyse Tonna Curatorial Associate, Dr Toni Sant Artistic Director Spazju Kreattiv.

In the aftermath of International Women's Day 2019, I was invited to meet up with Dr Tracy Prince, a historian, author and Affiliate Research Professor at Portland State University. She is also a Fulbright Specialist who visited Malta under the auspices of the US Fulbright programme, spending time on the island to present workshops as part of an Art + Feminism programme.

We meet at Spazju Kreattiv, St James Cavalier I Valletta. "The aim of the Art + Feminism programme is to highlight the work of women involved in the arts here in Malta. This venue has provided the perfect backdrop for this in the shape of the Wiki Loves Art 2019 events. Spaces A, B and C at this venue, all have their own unique art collection for the purpose, but for myself, I can refer to Space C showing a Fondazzjoni Kreattivita collection of works by female artists who had exhibitions running here between the years 2000 and 2018."

I ask Dr Prince about her involvement in the activities and how her interest in bridging the gender gap came about. Dr Prince has researched the role of women in society and published books on the topic, namely Notable Women of Portland (2017). In this book she focused on women about whose existence most people in Portland and in the US were oblivious, prior to her research. "This book and research all came about in a very unique way. It was via a series of incidents involving my daughter and her realisation that women are not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, the Torah. When she saw this, she was so dismayed, that we discussed it and it spurred me on to delve deeper into the issue of women being ignored and unacknowledged in several instances, even today. My work in this regard also involves my daughter and we tour Portland all year round together, giving some 50 public talks in any given year. It is a thoroughly enjoyable experience especially since it is a mother and daughter collaboration based on the book and research made. Although Portland is the smallest big city on the west coast of the US, there are many opportunities to cover this topic to interested audiences."

In tandem with the topic of female artists and Women's Day, Space B at Spazju Kreattiv is hosting an exhibition of activities recently organised by Wikimedia Community Malta, a wiki user group based in Malta. What is the link? Primarily research. In fact, Dr Prince's research about women in society eventually alerted her to the fact that Wikipedia, which uses the services of volunteer editors around the world, seems to have a predominantly male editorship. This is evident since Wikipedia biographies of women comprise only a small percentage of the total biographies on this website. "Wikipedia definitely needs less male editors and in my talks I encourage this fact to be rectified. I for one, found that out of 100 Portland women mentioned in my book, only six were showing on the site."

While in Malta, Dr Prince presented a workshop addressing this online gender gap, encouraging local Wikipedia editors to focus on this issue and to increase the presence of notable Maltese women featured on Wikipedia, most especially local female artists.

Another workshop presented by Dr Prince focused on art residences, fellowships and fundraising, providing further information about the Fulbright Programme. This is a flagship international educational exchange programme sponsored by the US government and designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Through the Fulbright Visiting Scholar programme, a Maltese scholar can have the opportunity to pursue post-doctoral research, to lecture or to pursue combined lecturing and research at US institutions, either for one academic semester or for as long as a full academic year. On the other hand, the core Fulbright Scholar programme sends 800 US scholars and professionals abroad each year. Fulbright scholars at the University of Malta lecture and conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields. The Fulbright Senior Specialist programme provides grants for US specialists to spend as little as two weeks up to a maximum of six weeks at foreign institutions, including NGOs. The aim is to share their expertise in varied programmes including lecturing, development/assessment of curricula or educational materials, participation in specialised conferences, workshops, as well as providing consultancy to the institution concerned. 

Dr Prince spoke about Fulbright's post-WWII intent to create opportunities of international exchanges in a bid to increase understanding between peoples. "In the US, we have three distinctly respected and prestigious institutions - the Nobel Prize, the Pullitzer Prize and Fulbright."

Dr Prince, who left Malta immediately after this string of interesting events, commented positively about her first visit to the islands: "It has been very professionally rewarding to find myself here in Malta holding workshops on International Women's Day.

"And I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of this island, its Carnival days and its very unique history."


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