Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | November 25, 2009

Saluting Pru Poretta aka Lady Godiva 2

Regular readers of this blog will know that a post ‘Saluting Pru Poretta aka Lady Godiva’ has been the number One post for the last 8 months. Pru Poretta discovered the post and has sent me some lovely photographs of her at work in the ‘Godiva Sisters’ project – which is truly inspired. Read her description of this and the ‘Godiva Sisters Prayer’:

The Godiva Sisters project is about social inclusion – not being achieved through academic lectures, written documents or intellectual argument (as important and necessary as these might be), but achieved instead through dramatic story, colourful spectacle and personal encounter with “those different from ourselves”.  Such an artistic project engages and changes people at a deeper level.

Pru Porretta, Coventry’s present-day Lady Godiva, has reached out to the various ethnic, cultural and faith communities in the city of Coventry.  She has made herself available to share with groups and individuals the story that lies at the heart of Coventry.  She brings to life the story of Lady Godiva – both history and legend – in her engaging presentations to adults and children, to voluntary and community groups.  She felt the need to open up the story, to include something of the history, culture and values of other communities in Coventry.  She asked them to choose a heroine, who would embody and represent that community in a wider context.  Having chosen a heroine, a working-group was set up to design and create, with guidance from a textile artist, a banner depicting the heroine and her story in the tradition and style of that community.  Later in the project, decorated umbrellas were included in the artistic work.  One member of each group was chosen to be that heroine, but more importantly to become a Godiva Sister and to be an animateur among her community.  Some groups, aware of themselves as vulnerable minorities, were initially quite nervous about public performance.  Much encouragement and support was needed to enable them to complete the work and be ready to perform at the annual Godiva Sisters event in September.  More established and experienced groups led the way by preparing music or dance for the event.  An original six Sisters in 2002 has grown to thirteen Sisters in 2009:

Godiva Sisters in 2009

Irish Sister: Carmel Silver as Christina Noble

Caribbean Sister: Lorna Gayle as Mother Mary Seacole

Christian Sister: Kusumika Chatterjee as Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Chinese Sister: Margaret Tse as Hua Mulan

Malaysian Sister: Raja Rahawani as Puteri Saadong

Sikh Sister: Jaspreet Singh as Maharani Jindan Kaur

Hindu Sister: Seema Ambaram as Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi

Serbian Sister: Slavica Stojsavljevic as Princess Milica

Sister with Disability: Bhanu Dahbi as Helen Keller

African Sister: Consolata Zvirikuzhe as Nzingha, Queen of Matamba

Polish Sister: Stasia Chustecka as Queen Jadwiga

Latin-American Sister: Adriana Atkinson as Policarpa Salavarrieta

Muslim Sister: Zainab Khan for organ transplant charity

Lady Godiva is the most famous benefactor in the history of Coventry.  In ancient times an annual feast was held by the Guild of Cappers and Felt-makers on the day of her death – 10 September 1067.  It was known as Dame Goodyve’s Daye.  After four hundred years this feast has been restored into the calendar of Coventry by our present-day Lady Godiva.

In some communities women are expected to remain at home.  It is not easy for them to meet other women, who use strange languages, styles and traditions, some of whom they might have been taught to regard with suspicion or even hostility eg Muslims negative approach to Hindus.  Such signs of contradiction could lead to increasing conflict. It is certainly not intended that difficulties be hidden away, however, the emphasis on sharing food, on mutual respect and affirmation of each Sister and what she represents, is central to the whole project.  There is a growing recognition of the “one human community” which we need to embrace and which includes all of us.

Religious faith plays an important role in the life of almost all these communities.  It is integral to their sense of cultural or national identity.  Spiritual values and traditions continue to inspire and guide them in our contemporary and secular age.  Sometimes religion has seemed to be part of the problem more than it has been part of the solution.  Crusades by fundamentalist extremists have muffled Coventry’s message of peace and reconciliation.  The Godiva Sisters project and performance proclaims that message in a way that words alone can never do.

We gather here today

in the face of a darkness that threatens our world:

the terrorist attack, the suicide bomber, our prejudice and hatred –

all that destroys respect, friendship and caring in our community.

We pray that children, women and men may become makers of peace

in a world that is one human community.

Let us befriend those different from ourselves,

be ready to forgive past wrongs and be reconciled,

to share new visions, new love, new hope. (Godiva Sisters Prayer)

This project and performance continues to bring people together in a spirit of peace and reconciliation.  The Godiva Association believes that it can play a significant part in the future development of community relations and in the deepening of interfaith understanding.  Photos of this year’s event that took place on Friday 11 September 2009 in the Priory Gardens, Coventry:


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