As Long As We Make It

Solo exhibition: ‘As Long As We Make It‘, GAADA, Burra Isle, Shetland
16th – 29th Novemeber 2020

As Long As We Make It’ is both an art installation and an invitation to a shared act. The work was commissioned by Gaada for their visual art programme Weemin’s Wark, which unpacked gender inequality in Lerwick’s annual Viking festival ‘Up Helly Aa’. The woollen plait, extending from Gaada’s flagpole, is woven from knitted yarn and dyed using pigments found in plants, following methods used by the Vikings. This object honours tradition and pays tribute to ancient craftwork and labour. The materials used reflect relationships people forged long ago, with livestock and land, relations that, in Shetland, have traditionally been dominated by women exercising economic agency.

In response to the work of activists in Shetland today, the long plait recollects a peaceful demonstration that occurred in 1989, across the Baltic States. Spanning 419.7 miles and three countries, a human chain was formed when approximately two million people joined their hands together in solidarity. Hannah Harkes’ exhibition considers strength and determination, as well as softness and flexibility, yet most of all it is a celebration. Sparked by the commission focusing on Women’s contribution to island culture, this exhibition celebrates not only women but also strength and femininity in all bodies and forms.

What began in an Estonian forest, by the artist’s two hands, continues to grow in Shetland. Any visitor who wishes may lend their own hands to the work and take part in the simple joy of making something really, really long together. The series of risograph prints points towards some of the narratives that have informed the work. Three short stories, accompanying the exhibition, encourage confidence; ownership of our own potential to generate change; and hope for the future.

This new body of work has been developed in response to Weemin’s Wark, Gaada’s 2021 Visual Art Programme in partnership with Glasgow Women’s Library and local equalities group Up Helly Aa For Aa. Weemin’s Wark is funded by Creative Scotland.