Festival Herstory

The City of Women festival strengthens the dialogue between feminism, art, culture, science and theory, between the political and everyday life.


The idea of the City of Women festival dates back to 1994. It originated in the specific political and social context after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of socialist Yugoslavia when the introduction of neoliberal reforms in Slovenia gave rise to social inequality, growing individualism and anti-feminism. All of this weakened the power of women's and feminist organisations.

The first edition of the festival was held in 1995 by the Government Office for Women’s Policy. The following year, the Association for the Promotion of Women in Culture – City of Women took over its organisation and has run it ever since.

Since its beginnings, the festival has had two goals: firstly, to give visibility and recognition to the vast contemporary artistic production of women* in the post-Yugoslav space – hence the name City of Women, referring to Christine de Pizan's famous The Book of the City of Ladies (1405). Secondly, striving to reach out to the broadest possible public with artistic insights into gender (in)equality, convinced that art would be more successful than science and politics in doing so. In its turbulent, now almost 30-year history, the festival has achieved both of these goals – and much more. 


In Slovenia, the International Festival of Contemporary Arts – City of Women has:

·  Increased the visibility of contemporary women* artists, researchers and activists;

·  Established international and intergenerational cooperation among people of all genders;

·  Continued and strengthened links with feminist initiatives from the former Yugoslavia;

·  Had a significant impact on the presence, understanding and publicity of the intersections between feminism and contemporary art;

·  Created a dialogue between feminism, art, culture, science and theory, between everyday life and political life;

·  Stimulated intersectional debates on feminist issues and the problems of the post-socialist transition (war, violence, the consequences of neoliberal “development”);

·  Opened up the possibility of creating a new generation of feminists, either alongside the City of Women or as a critique of and response to it.


The City of Women Festival remains the largest annual event of the City of Women Association. As a “temporary venue of persistent hope”, it moves beyond the event itself, preparing the ground for a different, better future in which equality will be guaranteed to everyone.


In the past five years, the City of Women has become a place where the promotion of women artists is not only a favoured motto, but also a reality; where the cultural diversity of women artists is not merely a popular cliché, but a fact which strengthens the visibility of the multicultural environment we live in.

– Darja Zaviršek, President of the City of Women Association, 1999,


Within the then-conservative climate of the independent state of Slovenia, the festival positioned itself as a facilitator of progressive social thought. As it believed in art as an agent of social change, the Office for Women’s Policy played an exceptional avant-garde social role in all this.

– Liljana Stepančič, founding member of the City of Women Association, 2015, http://www.ckz.si/arhiv/261/2_5Liljijana.pdf



Tea Hvala, “Začasni prizorišči vztrajnega upanja”, Časopis za kritiko znanosti, št. 261 (3/4 2015), http://www.ckz.si/arhiv/261/4Tea_Hvala.pdf

Vlasta Jalušič, “Festival Mesto žensk in kontekst devetdesetih: od popotovanja z rdečim jugom do ustanovitve”, Časopis za kritiko znanosti, št. 261 (3/4 2015), http://www.ckz.si/arhiv/261/2Vlasta_Jalu%9ai%e8.pdf

Vesna Leskošek, “(Pre)živeti ta neumni čas anti-kulturnosti, moralizma in cinizma”, spletna stran Mesta žensk, 2014, http://www.cityofwomen.org/sl/content/2014/preziveti-ta-neumni-cas-anti-kulturnosti-moralizma-cinizma-0

Liljana Stepančič, “Pionirski časi: Osebni spomini na prvi festival Mesto žensk”, Časopis za kritiko znanosti, št. 261 (3/4 2015), http://www.ckz.si/arhiv/261/2_5Liljijana.pdf

Darja Zaviršek, “Mesto žensk in njegova peta obletnica”, spletna stran Mesta žensk, 1999, http://www.cityofwomen.org/sl/content/1999/mesto-zensk-njegova-peta-obletnica