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Monumental Welsh Women: Acclaimed sculptor chosen to create Cranogwen statue

01 Dec 2021 4 minute read
Sculptor Sebastien Boyesen commissioned to create figurative sculpture of Sarah Jane Rees, known by her bardic name Cranogwen

A sculptor has been chosen to create a statue of the trailblazing poet and journalist Sarah Jane Rees.

Acclaimed artist Sebastien Boyesen will craft a life-size figurative sculpture of Rees, better known by her bardic name ‘Cranogwen’, which will take price and place in Llangrannog, Ceredigion.

She was at various times during the 19th century a mariner, poet, teacher, journalist, preacher and political campaigner.

Cranogwen. Picture by the National Library of Wales

The piece has been commissioned by the Monumental Welsh Women (MWW) statue campaign, in partnership with Cerflun Cymunedol Cranogwen Community Monument, a sub-group of Pwyllgor Lles Llangrannog Welfare Committee.

The commission was made possible after a GoFundMe fundraiser hit a £20,000 target. It is the third statue commissioned by MWW of a ‘real Welsh woman’.

As a contemporary sculptor who lives and works in Llangrannog, Boyesen has a vast portfolio of designing and creating figurative public artwork across the UK.

Monumental Welsh Women say they were extremely impressed with his considered personal research into the historic, social and aesthetic representation of Cranogwen, and his experience and ability to develop a befitting figurative sculpture as an important permanent memorial to her.

A site for the long-anticipated sculpture has been sourced in the centre of Llangrannog near the church where Sarah Jane Rees is buried. The sculpture will commemorate Cranogwen’s extraordinary life and her many and varied achievements, made despite the widespread sentiment against women working outside the home and with the limited opportunities available to them in the late 19th and early 20th century.

In recognition of Cranogwen, who among other career achievements encouraged the talents of other women, MWW have partnered with Lisa Evans, Programme Director of the degree honours programme in Sculpture at Carmarthen School of Art, Coleg Sir Gâr, to award a paid menteeship for one year to an emerging post-graduate female sculptor from Coleg Sir Gâr to work with Boyesen on this commission. It has been awarded to Keziah Ferguson.

‘Highlight of my career’ 

Sebastien Boyesen has said of the commission: “Being commissioned to create the statue of Cranogwen is both an honour and privilege and is something I would consider to be a highlight of my career.

“I look forward to developing the work with our amazing team including working with Keziah as an emerging sculptor mentee, and hope that I can repay the trust placed in me by creating a wonderful legacy for the village and wider community that celebrates the achievements of an inspirational Welsh woman.”

Helen Molyneux from Monumental Welsh Women said: “We are delighted to be able to announce the commissioning of our project’s third statue of a real Welsh woman.

“Cranogwen was an inspirational woman whose reputation and influence spread not just across Wales but internationally, at a time when many women rarely left villages they were born in.

“This will be the third statue commissioned by the Monumental Welsh Women project to celebrate the achievements of Wales’ hidden heroines – the women whose contributions to Welsh life and culture have been largely overlooked because of the era they were born in.

“The first statue was of Wales’s first black head teacher, Betty Campbell, that was unveiled in Cardiff in September. The second, of Elaine Morgan the evolutionary theorist and dramatist, will be unveiled in Mountain Ash in the autumn.”

Keziah said: “I feel incredibly privileged to be involved in the project, to honour the legacy of Cranogwen. The warm reception I received in Llangrannog has made me doubly excited to start work with Seb and the team.”

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