72. Final Critique - Handout, Dialogue and Presentation

72. Final Critique - Handout, Dialogue and Presentation

SLIDESHOW for critique

SLIDESHOW of final images


Dialogue for Presentation.

The cosmos, since ancient times, has been a perennial source of wonder and inquiry. Among the many constellations that dot the night sky, the Pleiades, often referred to as the 'Seven Sisters', have inspired myriad  stories across diverse cultures. These stories,  echo voices from the past, providing insights into the complex relationship between humans, especially women, and nature. Ecofeminism, a progressive movement at the nexus of ecology and feminism, shares similar concerns, interrogating the current exploitative relationship humans hold with the Earth. It seeks to unearth and understand the  connections we share with the natural world, emphasising a harmonious existence and mutual respect.

As an interdisciplinary pursuit, this project aims to explore the Pleiades narratives through an ecofeminist lens, synthesising cosmic folklore and contemporary environmental ethics. Through a series of photographic portraits inspired by the stories of the ‘Seven Sisters’, the study delves into questions about the prevailing themes these tales present, their relevance to ecofeminist principles, and their potential for embodying these connections . Notably, in an age of digital interconnectedness, the project aims to explore and reflect the ethos that humans and nature are interwoven by an unseen etheric force.

The following research questions guide this exploration:

How can I design a series of photographic portraits inspired by ecofeminist principles that draw on narratives about the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades?'

  1. What are the main common themes of stories about the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades?
  2. In what ways do these stories relate to ecofeminist critiques of the current relationship between humans and nature?
  3. To what extent is it possible to create a series of portraits of the women in Anneke’s life that reflect this connectedness to Earthly and celestial energies as well as each other?

Through these guiding inquiries, the study explores common themes present in these ancient narratives and their potential resonance with contemporary paradigms, offering a fresh perspective on the age-old human urge to connect, understand, and coexist with the cosmos and nature.


Ecofeminism. (slide 5 and land on 6 for much of the following)

  • Ecofeminism is a movement that melds ecological awareness with feminist perspectives, positing a world where the well-being of the planet is inseparably linked to the treatment of women, and is grounded in the feminist movement.
  • Francois d’Eaubonne first termed the term ‘ecofeminism’ in 1972. She argued that only women could bring about an ecological revolution where the planet was  “green again for all” and where human beings were not marked as male and female - instead as people first.
  • Karen J Warren’s writings contributed  greatly to the ecofeminist movement. She stated in Environmental Ethics, that: “Ecofeminists insist that the sort of logic of dominance used to justify the domination of humans by gender, racial, or ethnic, or class status is also used to justify the domination of nature. Because eliminating a logic of domination is part of a feminist critique - whether a critique of patriarchy, white supremacist culture, or imperialism - ecofeminists insist that naturism is properly viewed as an integral part of any feminist solidarity movement to end sexist oppression and the logic of domination which conceptually grounds it.” (Warren 1990, 132.) Ecofeminism and Sacred : xi 
(Slide 6 – Teo)
  • In my explorations of eco feminist text in relationship to the narratives surrounding the Pleiades, one can’t help but notice the themes of powerful independent women, taking on serious initiatives to assert themselves as advocates of positive action, unity, nurture and above all, healing and protection of themselves – their sisterhoods – and their mothers – their children and their children’s future, and above all, Mother Earth.
  • Patriarchal dominance over land and the environment is a system in which men have historically conquered and held authority over property and natural resources, using this control to reinforce their societal power while often exploiting both the land and women for economic and social gains, thereby perpetuating gender inequalities and environmental degradation, a social and political dynamic that has existed since the enlightenment.
  • Ecofeminism as a response to patriarchy highlights the interconnectedness of women’s oppressions and environmental degradation. It advocates for addressing both gender and environmental issues together, emphasizing the parallels between the exploitation of women and nature, and seeking to create a more equitable and sustainable world by challenging patriarchal structures, constructed gendered behaviours and harmful environmental practices.
  • Ecofeminism, ‘a new term for ancient wisdom’ grew out of various social movements – the feminist, peace and ecology movements – in the late 1970s ad early 1980s. Though the term was first used by D’Eaubonne ,  it only became popular in the context of numerous protests and activities against environmental destruction, sparked-off initially by reoccurring ecological disasters.
  • Since the 1980s, ecofeminism has sharpened its focus on three main aspects. First is the embrace of intersectionality, which has expanded ecofeminism to consider the interconnected nature of gender, race, class, and species oppression, particularly highlighting the plights of indigenous women and those from developing nations who are disproportionately affected by environmental crises.
  • Second, ecofeminists have levelled a robust critique against the forces of globalization and capitalism, arguing that these systems exacerbate environmental destruction while reinforcing gender inequalities by devaluing women's contributions to ecological stewardship.
  • Lastly, there's been a pivot toward grassroots activism and the elevation of local knowledge, with ecofeminists championing the crucial role of women in community-based resource management and advocating for their involvement in environmental policy-making, thereby endorsing a more localised and bottom-up approach to sustainable development.
  • This quote from the …from Ynetra King,  from the Women and Life conference in 1980 still holds true today:
  • “Ecofeminism is about connectedness and wholeness of theory and practice. It asserts the special strength and integrity of every living thing….. We are a woman-identified movement and we believe we have a special work to do in the these imperilled times. We see the devastation of the Earth and her beings by the corporate warriors, and the threat of nuclear annihilation by the military warriors, as feminist concerns. It is the same masculinist mentality which would deny us our right to our own bodies and our own sexuality, and which depends on multiple systems of dominance and state power to have its way.” 
The Pleiades – M45 – Matariki
  • It could be devised that by exploring the ancient and wise narratives of the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades provides profound insights into fostering a harmonious relationship with nature, empowering women, and advocating for a sustainable and equitable future. Could it be that these narratives remind us of the interconnectedness of all living beings and the importance of respecting and protecting the environment? And that they celebrate the strength and agency of women, urging for their empowerment in environmental stewardship.
(Slide 7)
  • Matariki, known as the Pleiades star cluster, is deeply significant to Māori as it signals the New Year, a time for remembrance, celebration, and community unity. It embodies the start of a new cycle, with traditional observances including honouring the dead, giving thanks for the harvest, and sharing prosperity with loved ones. The revival of Matariki celebrations in the 2000s, and its recognition as a public holiday from 2022, reflects its importance in New Zealand society, promoting multicultural acknowledgment and respect for indigenous heritage and the interconnectedness of all communities. 

(Slide 8)

  • Across the Pacific, the Pleiades star cluster, or Matariki, holds varied roles and stories in different Pacific Island cultures.
  • Known as Matali'i in Samoa, Na Luve ni Marama in Fiji, Mataliki in Tonga, Matariki in the Cook Islands, Makali'i in Hawaii, and Matari’i in Tahiti—All herald the new year, signalling times for feasting, planting, and fishing, as well as celebrating seasonal transitions and abundance.
  • Common across the Pacific nations is the Pleiades' role in agriculture, timekeeping, and the connection between the celestial and terrestrial, often with a feminine aspect reflecting natural cycles.


Brief examples of other cultural narratives surrounding the Pleiades through the ecofeminist lens include :

  • The Andean Cultures" and the celestial narratives of the Blackfoot, Cherokee, Kiowa, and Australian First Nations all illustrate the reverence for the feminine divine and its integral role in the continuity and sustenance of life and culture, resonating with ecofeminist values of respect and reciprocity with nature.
  • Greek Mythology: Here, they are the Seven Sisters, symbolic of feminine unity and guardianship over the natural world.
  • Australian Aboriginal Cultures: The constellation features in Dreamtime narratives, encapsulating creation and life's continuity, reflecting a profound respect for Earth.
  • Norse Mythology: Known as Freyja's hens, the Pleiades in this context could be seen as embodying fertility and abundance, central to ecofeminist thought.
  • Hindu Tradition: The Krittika, are associated with the nurturing of the war god Skanda, aligning with ecofeminist views on the protective aspects of femininity.

These interpretations across times and cultures all resonate with ecofeminist values, where the Pleiades represent nurturing, protection, and the integral connection between women and the cycles of nature. They are venerated in diverse cultures that honour the sacred feminine and the cyclical nature of life.


(Slide 9)

  • Both Greek and Māori narratives embody themes of protection and the celestial/sacred feminine, as do many the global ancient narratives surrounding the Pleiades, with the Pleiades playing a key role in marking time and seasons. The "lost Pleiad" motif, also common across various cultures, resonates with the shared human experience of the stars' movement through millennia, suggesting these stories could be among humanity's oldest.
  •  It is important to mention here the significance of Seven.
  • Although both Greek and Māori mythologies acknowledge 9 stars in the Pleiades star cluster, a common reoccurring narrative across multiple ancient and present cultures is that of the Seven Sisters.

Seven appears to a powerful number in human existence: with

  • Days of the week named after the seven celestial bodies by the Babylonians.
  • The seven chakras as energy centers within the body.
  • The seven colors observed in a rainbow.
  • The cultural significance of the number seven symbolising balance and harmony.
  • Iconic sevens, including the Pleiades, the Seven Wonders, and the Seven Deadly Sins.

(Slide 10)

Here are the main common themes from the ancient stories of the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades:

  • Pursuit and escape
  • Transformation
  • Connection to the seasons and timekeeping
  • Femininity and sisterhood
  • Celestial significance
  • Mourning and loss
  • Protection and safety


  • It would appear that these ancient stories are a testament to the enduring wisdom of our ancestors, guiding us towards a more sustainable and harmonious coexistence with the natural world, inspiring humanity to work collectively across cultures and civilisations, fostering a shared responsibility to create a better world for present and future generations.
  • I feel that these legends have endured the test of time, to now be revived to remind us that we are indeed all one, under the night sky, why else would all these ancient cultures share such common threads in their narratives.
  • Now more than ever we need to come together for the health of our planet, and for our collective futures. These ancient stories are didactic resources that offer a path through these periled times.


Artistic Influences

(Slide 11)

Olafur Eliasson:

  1. Eliasson's art merges nature with installations, reflecting ecofeminism's stance on valuing nature and questioning human dominance over it.
  2. His works, like "Ice Watch," visually present climate change, aligning with ecofeminist principles of Earth's protection and anti-exploitation.
  3. Viewer-involved and community-centric pieces embody ecofeminism's focus on unity and collective environmental responsibility.
  • I was lucky enough to experience the Weather Project at the Tate Modern in London on my 23rd birthday. This impactful moment has had  profound effect on how proceeded with my personal art theory and the potentials of what art can do for the world and its inhabitants.


(Slide 12 & 13)

Gill Gatfield's artwork exhibits ecofeminist characteristics through the following aspects:

  1. Gatfield often uses natural and sustainable materials in her sculptures, such as native woods and stones. This choice not only shows a respect for the environment but also symbolically connects the inherent qualities of these materials with femininity and nurturing, key themes in ecofeminism.
  2. Her works frequently delve into themes of gender identity and environmental conservation, intertwining these concepts. By doing so, Gatfield's art reflects the ecofeminist perspective that the exploitation of nature and the oppression of women are interconnected issues that need to be addressed together.
  3. Many of Gatfield's pieces are designed to evoke a sense of harmony and balance between humanity and nature, as well as between genders. This aligns with ecofeminist ideals that advocate for a more symbiotic relationship with the natural world and a more equitable society that values both feminine and masculine principles equally.
  • I am especially interested in Gatfield’s use of the metaverse and technology to exhibit her work. It is ground breaking, offering endless potentials for large installations in otherwise inaccessible spaces.
  • On her recent work Halo, taken from her website: Defying physics, HALO appears out of the ether through the Metaverse, an ancient stone circle and a futurist monument. Its ephemeral presence disperses sun- and moon-light, evoking celestial haloes which form part of intersecting cosmologies and ancient weather lore. Suspended as if under a spell and held by the gravitational pull of the moon, the virtual monument honours the deep past and conjures new possibilities.

(Slide 14)

The Pacific Sisters, a collective of Pacific and Māori fashion designers, artists, and performers, exemplify ecofeminist principles in their work through the following aspects:

  1. They utilise natural and upcycled materials in their creations, embodying ecofeminism's commitment to sustainability and anti-consumerism.
  2. Their art celebrates Pacific and Māori femininity and its intrinsic connection to nature, mirroring ecofeminism's values on indigenous women's roles in environmental guardianship.
  3. They advocate for the preservation of culture and nature, addressing climate change and indigenous rights, in line with ecofeminist principles of environmental and social justice.

I first met Rosanna Raymond and Ani O’Neil during my teen years in Auckland's fashion industry; Ani later became my tutor at Elam, and Rosanna, a supportive aunty and friend whilst living in London. Their recent work for Scape2022 inspired me to shift from installations to portraiture, even though I humbly acknowledge their unmatched impact. 

The Work! Methodology

(slide 15 – Read slide----)

  • Eco-feminist interpretations of the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades highlight the power and collective strength of women, emphasising their role in sustaining and nurturing future generations and the Earth.
  • My creative journey has traversed from creating outdoor installations to focusing on photographic portraits inspired by ecofeminist principles and the narrative of the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades.
  • Initial plans for outdoor light sculptures were revaluated due to cultural sensitivities and the use of public spaces posing challenges, I therefore redirected my attention towards ecofeminist objectives in relationship to the Seven Sisters through portraits of My Seven Sisters.
  • My work is influenced by the concept of a cosmic energy web, suggesting a universal interconnectivity and the potential of personal healing contributing to global well-being.
  • This perspective is deeply influenced by my personal health struggles with endometriosis, which is potentially linked to environmental toxins from my upbringing on farm in Central Canterbury, where we used to wash in the water race water /ie the runoff from the farms, throughout my childhood. My health journey after years of surgeries and band aid medications, eventually led me to a holistic healing approach, further connecting me to ecofeminist principles in my own health and the health of the planet.

(Slide 16)

  • Early exposure to eco-spiritual literature and meditation has constantly informed my work, with a blend of Buddhist, ecofeminist, and cosmic unity concepts, that also intertwine a belief in otherworldly intelligence and the importance of celestial connections for Earth's healing.
  • It was During meditation, that I was inspired to portray my "Seven Spiritual Sisters" in portrait form. First in natural settings, which led to an initial outdoor test shoot. However, after comparing these to the studio photos, I realised the studio images better captured the essence of my project's values.
  • Managing home, work, and my studies has required strict time management, and my spiritual practices, such as Vipassana meditation and yoga, have been essential for maintaining the mental clarity that fuels my intuitive artistic process.
  • In "Ecofeminism and the Sacred," Stephanie Kaza's insights resonate with me, as she connects women's holistic understanding with nature to ancient spiritual traditions, emphasising that a personal relationship with the Earth is foundational to environmental ethics.
  • Charlene Spretnak's chapter in "Ecofeminism and the Sacred" mirrors my beliefs about our deep spiritual connection with the cosmos, recognising that even at an atomic level, there's an interactivity and awareness within nature.

(Slide 17)

  • Vandana Shiva’s perspective in "Ecofeminism" aligns with my view that life's sacredness is integral and should be celebrated in our everyday lives, which I aim to reflect in my creative and spiritual practices.
  • My portraits aim to embody the principles discussed by Kaza, Spretnak and Shiva, focusing on the connection of the subjects to their womb/moon cycles and their feminine power, avoiding the common narratives of waste and decay.


(Slides 18 & 19)

  • The photoshoots were pre-empted by AI-curated preliminary workbook images.
  • Being time poor this process allowed me to design my mind’s eye imagery, allowing me to work backwards from there.
  • (slide 20) Aesthetic influences on my work has also come from the most recent inception of the movie Dune, specifically the Bene Gesserit sisterhood.
  • (slide 21) Also from the aethereal otherworldly works of Iris Van Herpen.
  • (slide 21) As well as the glossy, full-length prints from Christine Webster's "Black Carnival" series in the mid-'90s.
  • These creatives have influenced my artistic journey, and have helped shape my creative narrative, informing some of my compositional choices and aesthetic decisions for these portraits.

(slide 23)

  • In my portraits, it has been my aim to subtly reflect the predominant themes of the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades narratives, such as transformation, connection to the cycles of the Earth, femininity, sisterhood, celestial significance, mourning and loss, and protection and safety.

(Slide 24)

  • The women I have captured are not just my close friends; they are dedicated energy workers, yogis, and psychic channels. They are the essence of light workers, and through this project, I have tried to capture essence as luminous renegades, consciously incarnated in this era to anchor and channel light.
  • At Lightworkx Studio with Deiderik Van Heyningen as Photographer, and I as Art Director, we chose specific backdrops to ensure the models could be easily incorporated into different post-production environments.


(Slide 25)

  • Every element of the composition was deliberately chosen, from the natural and glowing makeup by my sister Kristen Stewart to the radiant dresses loaned from designer Adrian Hailwood, and the recycled jewellery found by my children, to ensure the portraits reflected the light and energy of stars. One of the crowns I made, the other belonging to Teo.
  • I portray each goddess holding a crystal ball illuminated by LED light, symbolising the alignment of lunar cycles with the female menstrual cycle, a unifying element across all portraits that reflects the moon's influence on female physiology.


(Walk through the photo shoot slides here 26->33)

(Briefly discuss mandalas – elemental background choices to align with ecofeminist narrative here slides 34->43)

Returning briefly to my research questions: (SLIDE 41)

And keeping this at the fore of one’s mind let’s look to the portraits as they evolved into the finalised renditions)


(Slides 42 onwards)

  • In my portraits, each woman becomes a luminous embodiment of the Seven Sisters, with the moon-womb interplay symbolising their alignment with Earth's tidal rhythms, illuminating ecofeminist discourse on the intrinsic bond between women and nature.
  • I decided on photographic frames over video, drawing from my background in still photography and to better allow for post-production within my established skill set. That said I still photographed the subjects with the intention of creating sequential moving stills. Seen in the following slides…. (42, 43, 44, 45)


(Slide 46, 47, 48, 49,

  • As you can see, for my Masters Critique, I have presented the work as both prints and on-screen.
  • To maintain ecofeminist integrity, I've chosen to share my workbook processes through an online blog, conserving natural resources in my project's development. 
  • Are these the best renditions that they could have been of this projects objectives? I am not sure, in hindsight there are certain parts of the photoshoots that I would definitely revisit and do differently. However with the shoots happening in 3 sessions it was difficult to change the compositions once the stage had been set so to speak.
  • Is this the best for of final outcome for the presentation for the works?
  • No, I do believe there will be some form of outdoor projection into foliage or trees, or onto land, or over water at some point. The imagery unto itself now exists, and I look forward to the potential of this evolution for the works in due course. As I also believe that these potentials will add weight to the narrative of the works.

(slide 52)

  • My work seeks to tune into an energetic omnipresent interwovenness of all existence, whereby positing that individual healing can ripple outwards, contributing to the collective wellness of our world.
  • I also advocate that through my connection to MY Seven Spiritual Sisters, and in turn their connections to theirs, and so on, we are ALL connected.
  • Matamua in the conclusion of his book "Matariki" emphasises the huge importance of honouring the Māori traditions and deities in New Zealand's Matariki celebrations, advocating for respectful observance led by the Māori, while also recognising the opportunity for all in Aotearoa to connect through and with the Pleiades/Matariki. These celebrations provide a platform for us ALL to come together as one people, sharing the same planet and home.
  • This research journey has been an exploration of the symbiotic relationship between humanity and the cosmos, using photographic artistry to evoke the wisdom of the title of the works which in itself is an ancient statement, "As above, So below," and celebrating our interconnectedness under the stars. 


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