Feminist feast in Estonia: Ladyfest cultural festival in 2011-2018

Katrin Kivimaa

The beginning of the 2000s saw the emergence of a new generation of feminist artists and creative talents who, on the one hand, built on what had been created in the 1990s but, on the other hand, also increasingly stepped outside of the local and disciplinary frameworks. A series of new communication and exhibition formats – social media and other web-based platforms, independent project spaces and non-profit galleries, pop-up projects, etc. – emerged making it possible to depend less on mainstream cultural politics and the interests of the official cultural institutions. Reacting to topical social issues (outside of the art sphere) became increasingly important in identifying one’s collective and personal creative position. This was supported by transnational activist networks. The character of feminist cultural work was more than before guided by the spirit of community and activism, moving away from institutionally preferred forms of expression and/or those determined by the cultural mainstream. The article will discuss the longest-serving manifestation of this phenomenon – feminist cultural festival Ladyfest, called Ladyfest Tallinn in Estonia. The focus is on the aims, self-definition and media coverage of the festival as well as its impact on the broader public.