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Whitney Bradshaw

(Self as) Sheela-na-Gig, 2023

The precise origin and meaning of the Sheela-na-Gig remains unknown. Historians generally believe they were made between the 11th and 17th centuries. These nude figures, with exaggerated and wide open vulvas, can be found on churches as well as secular buildings, mainly in Ireland, but also in the UK, Spain, and France. They are usually placed above windows, doorways, or on gates to guard passageways and openings. Most historians believe Sheelas are a pre-Christian fertility goddess or folklore talisman intended to provide protection against evil and ensure safe and healthy childbirth. This self-portrait as a Sheela-na-Gig is a powerful gesture of rebellion against the patriarchy and a modern-day protector of femme bodies from the fascists who have banned and criminalized abortion, stripping us of our right to control our own bodies.

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