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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 January 2006, 07:10 GMT
Striking past of women on canvas
Portrait of Siān James
Siān James was active in the strike
The leading role of women during the 1980s miners' strike is being celebrated by an artist.

Portraits of six Welsh women who played prominent parts have been painted by Cardiff-based Jacqueline Alkema in a project, Women with a Past.

They will go on show in the Muni Arts Centre in Pontypridd from 10 January until 18 February.

Ms Alkema spent time with her subjects before painting them and found the strike was still alive in their minds.

"I found something encapsulating about them, these were fighters and active women and the strike was still with them," said Ms Alkema.

"Violet John, who will be 70 in a year or so, was down in Pembroke Dock during the recent ferry strike. "

Siān James
Siān James is now a Labour MP

All six were involved in the 1984-5 dispute, which started when the Conservative government announced the closure of Cortonwood Colliery in Yorkshire.

Violet John, originally from Ireland and who has lived in Maesteg for 30 years, set up soup kitchens for the miners coming off the picket line.

Violet John
Joyce Giblin
Hefina Headon
Siān James
Ann Jones
Mary Croften

Another subject, Joyce Giblin, collected food with her mother and distributed parcels for the miners during the strike and continues to campaign for the rights of travellers.

The subjects also include Siān James, now the Labour MP for Swansea East, who was involved with the South Wales Women Support Group during the strike and spoke at rallies and demos.

Another subject, Mary Croften, died in May 2001 and Ms Alkema used photographs of her as a base for the portrait.

Violet John set up soup kitchens. She is one of several women captured on canvas by Jacqueline Alkema.

The black and white portraits are oil on canvas and the "heads are bigger than life size and are a metre in height," according to the artist who studied at the Cardiff College of Art and Design.

Text is introduced in the final stages of the women's portraits and the life story of each woman is written on her face - although the words are difficult to see in smaller reproductions.

The women were "taken aback to see themselves" said Ms Alkema, who is originally from Kropswolde, Netherlands.

Ann Jones admitted she was uncertain of seeing the painting of herself and said: "First of all you keep staring at it and keep thinking 'do I look like that?'

Violet John
Violet John is still backing strikers

"But looking at it then and seeing it in depth I did like it and seeing it hung properly I did like it," she added.

The 57-year-old artist lived in the valleys at the time of the strike and took part by collecting money and food.

"I was inspired, after I found my drawings of the time, to turn to the portraits," Ms Alkema said.

The exhibition will be formally opened by Pontypridd AM and Welsh Education Minister Jane Davidson on 10 January.

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