We visited the current exhibition dedicated to Lanzarote’s rural and coastal women at the Casa Amarilla in Arrecife’s city centre and discovered a fascinating and thought-provoking glimpse at a not-too-distant way of life that seems unimaginable now.
The exhibition opened last June, and Covid regulations have opened and closed it a couple of times since, but with Lanzarote in Level 2 for the foreseeable future, it’s a good time to catch it while it’s still on.
One wall of the exhibition gathers picturesque old postcards of Lanzarote women in aprons and those unmistakeable palm-leaf hats (whose name, Sombrera gives the exhibition its name). These distinctively-dressed women, working under a scorching sun, have inspired several artists whose works are gathered in the exhibition, but they also hide a way of life that was gruelling and a rigid social code that allowed little freedom.
“I had no childhood at all” says one quote written on the wall, and for many years girls had only the very basics of schooling before going to work. This work , in the fields, as maids to the wealthy middle classes or, later, in fish-canning factories, was tough and poorly-paid, and the only escape for many women was marriage and a life of childcare and repeated confinements. To illustrate, a family of 16 are pictured in Haría.
There are magnificent photos of the women of La Graciosa being ferried to the mainland to sell fish at Haría market, or wash their clothes in the fresh water spring at the foot of the Famara cliff, and the exhibition also covers the tradition of decorative rosette embroidery and herbalism – both important ways of making a littler extra money in times gone by.
Exhibits are accompanied by information in English and Spanish, and the exhibition is free. It opens from 10am to 6pm on weekdays and 10 am to 2.30 pm on Saturdays.
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