The First Fjallkona: Fibre Terrains of Ethnicity and Gender

PLATFORM Gallery Exhibit in Collaboration with The Manitoba Museum and NúnaNow Iceland Canada Art Convergence

“Combs are for the hair as ploughs are for the earth…” Jón Bildfell, Heimskringla, July 10, 1924, 4.

How did changing fashion in the New World affect traditional gender norms in immigrant communities? What can clashes over hair and fashion tell us about cultural change? How have women used fibre (hair and clothing) to mediate the pressures and possibilities of immigrant life in Canada? In 2009 I curated an exhibit of the first Fjallkona (female embodiment of the Icelandic nation) dress ever created to respond to these questions. In collaboration with Platform Gallery, the Manitoba Museum, and the Núnanow Iceland Canada Art convergence, the show used elements from early ethnic public spectacles and the rise of the bobbed haircut in the 1920s to discuss generational tensions and changing roles for women in Canadian immigrant communities. Read my curatorial essay from the show on the “bald women epidemic of 1924” here. Then check out Prairie Artsters’ review of the show.