Preface to the book
The Terracotta Woman
Marian Heyerdahl
ISBN 978-82-7547-306-4

Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre
Oslo, May 2008

An earthly army of women with a message of peace

History, myths and chronicles have often concentrated on the men of war and glorified the bellicose princes, the victorious generals and the gallant soldiers. In the Xi’an tombs, a silent army of men guard for eternity their warlord emperor, ever ready for yet another battle.

Marian Heyerdahl breaks this pattern in her project The Terracotta Woman, looking at history from a different angle and providing us with a deeper understanding of the story of human conflict.

She draws our attention to the often overlooked female participation in history, and the suffering of the innocent and forgotten victims of war, cruelty and injustice – the women and children. Her terracotta army is making an incisive plea for the protection of human rights. The message that the artist conveys is one of peace. 

The Xi’an terracotta army is at the summit of China’s artistic achievement and one of the nation’s strongest cultural symbols. Marian Heyerdahl has felt its fascination and power to inspire. Working together with her Chinese fellow artists, craftsmen and craftswomen, she has, with great respect and sensitivity, reinvented the ancient warrior sculptures and created a new work of art, clearly stamped with her own personality as an artist and giving expression to the needs, concerns and vulnerabilities of our time. The result is a complex and subtle work that is both in a dialogue with the past and highly relevant today.

Based on the framework provided by Norway’s China strategy, Norway and China enjoy a broad and well-developed collaboration in most areas – from diplomacy, trade and science, to human rights and the arts. In the cultural field, scholars and artists have worked and studied side by side, seminars and workshops have been organised, concerts and exhibitions held, films screened and plays produced – all thanks to direct contact between institutions, communities, artists and other individuals in the two countries. 

The arts further communication and exchange and give us a better understanding of the multi-layered cultural environment that is our global world today. They help to create a common ground of greater tolerance towards others and their ideas. They bring people together.

Art has, of course, its own intrinsic value and is not merely a tool or means to an end. Nevertheless, an art exhibition constitutes a privileged arena for dialogue – one where even painful or sensitive subjects may be broached. For a significant work of art can challenge our mind-set and provide fresh insight. This is the enriching gift that Marian Heyerdahl has brought us in creating her Terracotta Woman project.

Marian Heyerdahl’s work is a homage to the great cultural tradition and heritage of China.  We in Norway are pleased that she has met with such a positive response from the Chinese artistic community, the public and the media. I am certain that the exhibition’s European tour will be equally successful.