Marta Romankiv, Allegory of Household Work (prototype), 2023, installation


A sculptural object placed by the artist within the historical Gdańsk Printing House building serves as a prototype of an allegorical representation of domestic and care work. Household chores, confined to private spaces – often heroic, albeit not spectacular, both paid and unpaid – remain invisible in the public space and debate. Historically and culturally, they were assigned to housemaids, babysitters, mothers and grandmothers – women whose efforts remain overlooked in narratives about the past.

Domestic tasks are similarly non-existent as allegorical representations in art history. Since antiquity, personifications of the most important notions in art have not just represented these very ides, but also reflected the socially important values they conveyed. The prototype designed by Marta Romankiv, based on workshops with people performing paid household work, strives to bridge this gap, visualise these efforts and secure a place for these workers in our shared history, in the scale of a district, a city and the entire world. The object is complemented by a printing matrix with a quote from Memories from the Young Years of a Poor Housemaid, where Marie Sansgêne described the reality of a housemaid from Gdańsk in the late 19th century and the story of her own emancipation: “I find it hard to embrace Christian humility and forgive insults; what I feel much more strongly is pride and awareness of my self-worth.”

MARTA ROMANKIV (she/her) is an interdisciplinary artist and curator working with installations, video works and social situations. She is currently doing her PhD at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. Romankiv graduated from the Lviv State College of Decorative and Applied Arts and the Academy of Art in Szczecin. He practice is mostly focused on civil and workers’ rights, social exclusion in the context of migration and the identity problems associated with it. Most of her projects are participation-based, situated at the intersection of activism, social sciences and art. In 2021, she supported migrants from Ukraine in the process of establishing the first trade union of household workers in Poland.

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Narracje #14