Women of Water | wisconsinacademy.org
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Women of Water

Woven Portraits from Around the World
Mary Burns, Donnata Alupot, Marie Claire Dusabe, Diane Umutoni, African Great Lakes. Scientists, 2017–2023. Hand-woven cotton jacquard, 42 x 31 in. (cropped)

Mary Burns’ weavings celebrate and honor water and the women who work with it and advocate for it. She began this project in 2016, inspired by Indigenous water protectors and the awareness that water is often closely tied to women’s roles in traditional cultures.

Over time, Burns’ project expanded to embrace a wider group of women—scientists, activists, teachers, farmers, and healers—all of whom hold deep connections with water. The women featured in her beautifully rendered weavings span the globe, from Wisconsin to the Arctic Circle, from Mozambique to Honduras, from Sri Lanka to Peru, and from the North American Great Lakes to the African Great Lakes.

In developing these pieces, Burns worked with the women, their families, and their organizations to tell their stories. Her decision to represent them in weaving, a medium often stereotyped as “women’s work,” reflects the often-underestimated power and importance of women’s contributions to water advocacy and science.


Mary Burns (Mercer) is an award-winning fiber artist and master weaver. Mary’s Ancestral Women exhibition features woven portraits of an elder from each of Wisconsin’s twelve Native tribes along with twelve complementary weavings.

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