Milk and lactation are incredibly ancient; the origins may stretch back as far as 300 million years.
Scientist now know that lactation evolved from the immune system, and it’s primary function was not nutrition but protection.
The immunological benefits of breast milk were recently beautifully illustrated to me by my neighbour Dan; When in Macedonia for work, he had developed a small stye infection on top of his eyelid. Whilst discussing with a male colleague where to find appropriate medication, a female colleague overhearing the conversation noted; “don’t worry, my sister is breastfeeding”… Dan found himself blushing, imagining the sister’s bare breast, and only after further explanation understood that a squirt of breast milk was believed to have the appropriate antibacterial properties to cure his stye.
Did you know that there are 292 Human Breast Milk Banks in the world, 17 of which are in the UK and 200 in Brazil, which has been associated with a significant drop in child mortality rates.
There are also Milk Banks for research, repositories of human- or animal milk samples. One of these animal milk banks is based at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in the USA, to study the evolutionary history of different species’ milks, which can offer clues to how human milk evolved. (Catherine Zuckerman – National Geographic Jan 2019)
Photo ; Bettina Hubby – Thanks for the mammaries
When assessing Mammographic breast imagery, one of the things consultants look at is “architectural distortion”.
At BBook we are curious to explore the “Architecture of the Breast” and are working on a series of events and activities related to this topic. (detailed information will follow soon)
Human beings measure themselves in relation to the world around them. And architects shape the world around us in relation to the body’s dimensions.
When an architect surveys a site or building (through drawing, photography or model-making), this doesn’t only provide an insight and understanding in a metric sense, it also connects to cultural and historical dimensions and the human experience.
We are interested in surveying the contemporary human body, in particular
the breast, to address issues society still struggles to accept, such as the asymmetry and lopsidedness of post lumpectomy and mastectomy chests and gender fluid and gender reassigned chests.
We will be inviting people to survey their own chest through drawing or any other suitable means, not only to understand and communicate its form, proportion, structure, symmetry, texture and materiality but also to engage with the politics and emotions surrounding the subject.
By sharing the resulting collection of surveys we aim to challenge conventional perceptions of the stereotypical body image and to promote diversity, inclusiveness and awareness.
Image above; Drawing I made of my friend Nel’s chest. In order to deal with post-traumatic swelling and lymphedema after a double mastectomy, she received Manual Lymphatic Drainage treatment. Quoting Nel ; “the kinesiology tape used, rivals anything Madonna did on tour!”
Anna Versteeg 2019
After my mastectomy, my friend Anne Lydiat referred to me as an Amazon.
The myth surrounding Amazons originates from Greek Mythology, referring to an ancient legendary nation of female warriors.
The etymology of the Greek variant “Amazon” means “a” without and “mazos” breast ; “without a breast.” The Greek historian Strabo (63BC) states that the right breasts of all Amazons were cut off or seared, so that they could more easily use their right arm for throwing the javelin and using the bow & arrow.
Anne gave me a beautiful book; “When women were birds” by American author, conservationist, and activist Terry Tempest Williams, in which Tempest notes that she belongs to “a Clan of One-breasted Women”. Her mother, grandmothers and six aunts all had mastectomies… ”this image allowed me to see the women in my family as warriors, not victims of breast cancer…”.
With a lopsided
From the poem “Two” by Anna Versteeg 2010
Image above ; Ancient Roman mosaic ; Amazon warrior armed with labrys, engaged in combat with a hippeus, is seized by her Phrygian cap; 4th century AD. From Daphne, a suburb of Antioch on the Orontes ( modern Antakyain southern Turkey), now installed in the Denon Wing of the Louvre, Paris.
When, after 23 years together, I got married in 2017,
we asked our guests to bring 10x10cm cakes, which were assembled on tiers to make our wedding cake. My friend Nel, who had a double mastectomy herself, contributed these two ‘breasts’… humour is priceless and provides perspective …
“Being playful about important issues is hard work”
FASHION…what do you wear when you have only one breast…?
For the first summer holiday after my mastectomy ( 2009) I asked my friend Maria to make me a new MONOKINI from two of my old bikini’s ( see above pictures).
Whilst researching for this journal, I found out about Monokini 2.0 (2014), a swimwear collection designed by a group of Finnish fashion designers, modeled by women who have gone through breast cancer and photographed by artists. This brillaint art project takes a stand on western commercial culture’s narrow idea of women’s ideal appearance and strives to expand the idea of what is considered to be beautiful in the female body. The project emphasizes that beauty lies in ones confidence and community’s acceptance rather than in “the perfect body”. The creative leaders are artists Katriina Haikala and Vilma Metteri (art duo Tärähtäneet ämmät / Shaken-not-blurred). The original idea is by Elina Halttunen, the woman with one tit. (http://katriinahaikala.com/portfolio/monokini2)
Ever since I first saw examples of anatomical votives,
I was attracted to the aesthetics of these collections of objects left at church altars and intrigued by the concept.
After I had a mastectomy, I started looking out for breast shaped votives.
This wax specimen from Portugal was given to me by friends…Fatima’s Breast.
Last year I bought this pair of jugs at an exhibition called ‘Nice Jugs’
by Vicky Thornton (architect, potter and collector) who brought together
a collection of jugs in the aftermath of breast cancer.
They were paired to complement each other, the similarity yet difference
reflecting the inevitable but often unappreciated a-symmetry of the post
operative world of breast cancer recovery. All were carefully curated to
sit as a subtle reminder of the legacy of breast cancer.
(profits were donated to Maggie’s Centres).
I heard this interview on BBC Radio 4 (Friday 28 Sept’18);
Emma and Helen talk about being unable to breast feed because of a physical condition (insufficient glandular tissue in the breast).
A better understanding could have improved their shared experience. LET’S TALK BREAST…
Breastfeeding has been one of the great themes of European art.
This ‘Virgin Mary nursing Christ Child’ by Hans Memling 1430-94 is a beautiful
When I was breastfeeding back in 2001, I sketched my son whilst feeding and made this print.
It strikes me how in all the paintings the lactating women are being observed, we are never invited to experience the mother’s perspective…