The British Museum will open the first major exhibition exploring female spiritual beings later this year, including a contemporary icon of the Hindu goddess Kali.

Feminine Power: The Divine To The Demonic opens at the British Museum in London in May and will explore female spiritual beings in world belief and mythological traditions around the globe.

The exhibition will feature ancient sculptures, sacred artefacts and contemporary art from six continents to explore the diversity of ways in which femininity has been perceived across the globe, from the ancient world to the present.

Belinda Crerar, curator at the British Museum, said “This exhibition is a tour through history and around the world to see the different ways that female power and authority have been perceived in spiritual belief.

“The diversity of these goddesses, spirits, enlightened beings and saints, and their profound influence in people’s lives today and in the past, gives us pause to reflect on how femininity – and indeed masculinity – are defined and valued now and in the future.”

The show will look at the different ways in which feminine power has been embodied throughout history; in deities, goddesses, demons, saints and other spiritual beings.

Objects in the exhibition include a newly acquired icon of the Hindu goddess Kali by Bengali artist, Kaushik Ghosh, the first contemporary 3D representation of Kali in the collection.

Also in the exhibition is a ceramic incantation bowl from 500-800 AD Iraq featuring a rare early image of Lilith – known in Jewish demonology as the first wife of Adam and the consort of Satan.

Feminine Power exhibitionThe dance mask of Taraka, from the workshop of Sri Kajal Datta in India, will be on display (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The 1994 sculpture Lilith by American artist Kiki Smith will also feature in the exhibition, on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Smith’s sculpture is cast from the body of a real woman.

Smith said: “Lilith becomes this disembodied spirit that goes off and wreaks havoc and doesn’t want to be subjugated. Here she is transcending gravity and the constraints of her body.”

The British Museum has invited guest contributors, including author and broadcaster, Mary Beard, and writer and podcast host, Elizabeth Day, to respond to the themes in the exhibition, sharing their personal and professional viewpoints.

The video and audio thought-pieces addressing each section aim to encourage discussion around the universal themes of the show.

The contributions will conclude the exhibition alongside an area for visitors to share their own responses.

The guest contributors also include psychotherapist and campaigner, Dr Leyla Hussein, and former British Army Major and human rights lawyer, Rabia Siddique.

Feminine Power: The Divine To The Demonic runs from May 19 to September 25 2022 in The Joseph Hotung Great Court Gallery at the British Museum.