In keeping with our main exhibition theme of Mother Nature in Monotype, we are revisiting one of the original associations between woman and nature - the Greek myth of Daphne.
In brief, according to this myth, Daphne was the daughter of the river god Peneus, well-known for her exceptional beauty. She had taken a vow of chastity to enable her to live in woodlands as a huntress and avoid the trappings of society and the restrictions of marriage.
But she was pursued one day by a lustful Apollo. Just before he captured her, in a state of exhaustion she prayed to her father and the Goddess Gaia – Mother Earth - for rescue and was metamorphosed into a laurel tree. Daphne subsequently lost her voice and the only sound she could make was by rustling her leaves. Apollo used his power of eternal youth to turn the laurel into an evergreen tree. He broke off a branch and a laurel branch is always associated with him in mythological imagery.
Like all myths, this story is timeless so still has many possibilities for a contemporary interpretation. To many, it may initially sound like a romantic though sad story. But although she remained forever beautiful, through Apollo’s ill-intentions Daphne became a woman with lost potential – no voice, immobile, unable to follow her passion to roam the woods and hunt.
Recently, this myth has been picked up as a symbol for the #MeToo movement. This myth is particularly relevant in Women’s Month when, alongside celebrating our womanhood, we are reminded each day of our country’s continuing plague of gender-based violence.
This is an interesting short article on this subject.