14 July 2020

Nat Geo's Women: A Century of Change

14 July 2020 - Written by PhMuseum

Marking the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted American women the right to vote, National Geographic presents a touring exhibition celebrating women worldwide. We went to see it at Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna, Italy.

From National Geographic's Women: A Century Of Change currently on display at Santa Maria Della Vita in Bologna, Italy - an initiative curated by Genus Bononiae

National Geographic reporters have been portrayed women at every latitude and at every point in time for almost a century, narrating the changes in their lives from different perspectives. The result is a critical look at the global condition of women, celebrating their strength while simultaneously denouncing cultural inequalities. What started as the magazine's November 2019 issue is now a travelling exhibition who had its European premiere in Bologna, Italy - after a first opening in Washington and a later show in Madrid - thanks to Genus Bononiae a cultural, artistic and museum itinerary composed of historical buildings that have been restored and open to the public.

The show is divided into six chapters – Beauty, Joy, Love, Strength, and Hope – and comprises a selection of images taken from the National Geographic archive, focusing on past, present and future challenges in different countries and historical periods. Every image depicts specific aspects of female existence, showing how the figure of the woman and her representation have evolved over time. "In a century the female condition has changed radically. At least in some parts of the world yet not everywhere. In the West, certainly, even if there are still important problems - says curator Marco Cattaneo. Equal pay is a practical example, but also on a much more subtle front we can mention the prejudices rooted in society on violence against women. Elsewhere the challenges are even more important. If the road ahead is still long, in this exhibition we have tried to recount the steps taken and to ignite hope for a future in which nobody is denied their rights ".

Dancers take to the streets at Salvador, Bahia, during Brazil’s annual Carnival parade. (David Alan Harvey/National Geographic, 2009)

So the festive images of samba dancers flocking to the streets during the carnival in Salvador da Bahia alternate with pictures of tea leaf pickers in Sri Lanka. The portrait of an Afghan woman in a red burqa carrying a cage of goldfinches on her head, a powerful metaphor of oppression, contrasts with the image of freedom and beauty captured during a cigarette break in Lagos, Nigeria. 100 years after the granting of voting rights to women in the United States, the exhibition reflects on the past, present and future of women, illustrating some of their key issues and focusing on the development goals that see them at the centre of every process of social, political and economic growth.

From National Geographic's Women: A Century Of Change currently on display at Santa Maria Della Vita in Bologna, Italy - an initiative curated by Genus Bononiae

A further section of the exhibition is dedicated to Portraits / Ritratti, featuring intimate shots and biographies of a group of iconic women, political activists, scientists and celebrities interviewed by National Geographic for a special issue of the magazine published in November 2019, when Susan Goldberg became its first female editorial director. Among the portraits are those of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the television host Oprah Winfrey, the Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, and the Italian Life Senator Liliana Segre.

The exhibition is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 am – 7:00 pm (last entry 6:00 pm) at Chiesa S. Maria della Vita, the most important example of Bolognese baroque. Inside the Church, you can also find the famous Compianto sul Cristo Morto by Niccolò dell’Arca. If you happen to be in town, we recommend you to enjoy a visit. There is time until 13 September!

A woman has her head shaved on the steps of West Virginia’s State Capitol to protest mountaintop removal and the denial of devastating health and human rights violations in coal mining communities.(Ami Vitale/National Geographic, 2012)

Schoolgirls in Ghana carrying chairs to the ceremony for the opening of the Maranatha Maternity Clinic (Randy Olson/National Geographic, 2007)

Gabra women carry jerry cans filled with murky water through desert plains in Kenya.(Lynn Johnson/National Geographic, 2009)


Where: via Clavature 8-10, Bologna, Italy

When: Tuesday to Sunday from 10h-19h

Open until: 13 September 2020

More info:


Genus Bononiae. Museums in the City is a cultural, artistic and museum itinerary, created by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio in Bologna. It is composed of historical buildings, right in the centre of Bologna, that have been restored and are now open to the public. You can visit their website and follow them on Instagram.

The National Geographic Society, headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational organizations in the world. Founded in 1888, its interests include geography, archaeology, and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical conservation, and the study of world culture and history. You can check their website here and follow them on Instagram.

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