An exhibition exploring the theme of cultural identity and diaspora, within the framework of contemporary art. Showcasing different viewpoints by 12 artists across the UK on a variety of issuesthat arise when cultures merge, such as displacement, belonging, migration and heritage.
A collaboration by Raisa Kabir and Raju Rage who have worked on individual and collaborative textile/art practices, using cloth as a binding theme and thread, as a decolonising tool of resistance and metaphor. Using cloth, in installation and performative pieces, we address the violences of colonialism, in conjunction with carrying a gendered diasporic South Asian queer identity, in order to unpick the meanings of cotton cloth on the brown queer body. We are particularly interested in the British colonial migration of South Asian labour to the rail roads of East Africa and to textile mills of Britain, in places such as Manchester.
"There is More at Stake Than Just 3 metres of Cloth" A cloth to be worn as a turban, conceptually conceived by Raju Rage, was collaboratively designed and hand woven by Raisa Kabir. Exemplifying the migrations of South Asians from North India/Panjab to East Africa to Britain, and the symbolism encoded within the turban. It signified a visual recording of this complex migration history, the colours which begin brightly coloured as worn in India, are symbolic of the transition of culture, as they migrated again and again, in order to survive the racism, and violences of living in the diaspora, the colours sobering until the cloth is rendered plain black. The final woven turban was then used in a performative piece by Raju Rage who wore the cloth on their non binary body, reiterating the struggles of having to define gender, culture, race, ethnicity and sexuality in the diaspora.
Woven cloth 2014
5 x images from performance as part of Guest Projects Residency London 2014
19 Feb 2015 Stuart Hall Library Clothes, Cloth & Culture Group
The politics of cloth as a tool of resistance, and the queer brown body. Join us on Thursday 19 February 6:30 - 8:30pm to hear artists Raisa Kabir and Raju Rage and sociologist Nirmal Puwar.
Two young artists, Raisa Kabir and Raju Rage, use their art/textile practice to address the violences of colonialism, gendered South Asian queer identity, and the meanings of cotton cloth on the brown queer body. They use cloth as a decolonising tool of resistance and metaphor. Sociologist Nirmal Puwar will respond to their presentations.
"There is More at Stake Than Just 3 Metres of Cloth" A cloth to be worn as a turban, conceptually conceived by Raju Rage, was collaborativly designed and hand woven by Raisa Kabir. Exemplifying the migrations of South Asians from North India/Panjab to East Africa to Britain, and the symbolism encoded within the turban. It signified a visual recording of this complex migration history, the colours which begin brightly coloured as worn in India, are symbolic of the transition of culture, as they migrated again and again, in order to survive the racism, and violences of living in the Diaspora, the colours sobering until the cloth is rendered plain black. The final woven turban was then used in a performance piece by Raju Rage who wore the cloth on their non binary body, reiterating the struggles of having to define gender, culture, race, ethnicity and sexuality in the Diaspora.
"Your threads cut my fingers, they bleed yet again and again" A part live "woven" art piece evoking violence in the history cotton cloth production, and the resistance of the queer brown body. Focusing on racialised labour, migration of textile workers, and the Bengali Diaspora, the work re-links the geographies of the cotton towns Oldham and Dhaka. Raisa looks at the extreme labour processes of hand weaving as a metaphor for the racialised queer body, and the histories carried in cloth/the body.
Raisa Kabir is multi-disciplinary artist, weaver and writer, who uses contemporary textiles, sound and photography to interrogate, and question concepts around the politics of dress in connection to space, gender, race, and sexuality.
Trained as a weaver at Chelsea College of Art, she utilises the embedded histories of cloth, to comment on the compacted social histories that are encapsulated within material culture. She has written about South Asian queer dress identity and culture, queer femme of colour invisibility, as well as cultural appropriation, ethnicity, diaspora and dress.
Raju Rage is an interdisciplinary artist, creative-critical writer and community organiser who is proactive about carving space, self-representation and self-empowerment using art and activism to forge creative survival.
Working in live art, Raju focuses on de-con-structive techniques of resistance such as interruption, confusion, disturbance and anti-performance, primarily using embodiment and working with assemblages of sculpture and multi-formulations of unspoken narratives. Raju Rage's current project 'The Dilemma of the Diaspora to Define' examines the tensions and conflicts of negotiating complex diasporic identity using culturally coded sculptural objects such as cloth.
Nirmal Puwar is a senior lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmith's College, University of London. As a leading sociologist she looks at issues of race, gender, space and body. She is the Director of Methods Lab, which initiates a series of projects at the intersection of academia and other public, as well as private, realms.
“Your threads cut my fingers, they bleed yet again and again”
A part live “woven” art piece, that re-invokes the histories and threads of violence encoded within cotton cloth production, and the resistance of the queer brown body. Focusing on the performance of racialised labour, migration of textile workers, and the Bengali Diaspora, the work re links the geographies of Oldham in Lancsashire and Dhaka, Bangladesh; two historic towns that were built on the production of cotton cloth.
Dhaka witnessed the colonisation of India by the British from the 18th Century, and the co-opting of the skilled weavers there to export cotton to England, known to produce the finest muslin cottons available.
This link is later re-routed when immigrants, who left Bangladesh during the 1971 war, arrive in the UK and ended up working in the Textile factories in the North of England, in mill towns in Lancashire like Oldham, who once during the height of the industrial revolution, proudly out produced and undercut the hand weavers of Bangladesh and India. When Bengal was divided during the partition, people used cotton cloth as signs of nationalism, and resistance to Bangladesh being torn apart.
The work uses reclaimed spools from disused Lancashire factories, and unravels the spools of thread, which have been spun from cotton in South Asia, to create a woven installation using parts of a hand loom. The work is a retracing of the repeated use of racialised labour and it’s connection to cotton cloth, and hinting at the violence that permeates this innocuous looking material. Taking a look at the how cloth is inextricably linked to resistance, the brown body, colonialism and capitalism, and how the effects are still dictating working people’s lives today.
Performance took place at INIVA gallery as part of their Contemporary Rites Live Art programme of Emerging practices. Photos courtesy of Christa Holka.
"There is More at Stake Than Just 3 metres of Cloth."
Communicating the transitions and migrations of turbans from North India/ Panjab via East Africa to Britain, Raisa Kabir weaving on a loom, crafting cloth conceptually created by Raju Rage, who ‘performed’ embodying this cloth, with their complex migration narratives, on their non-conforming queer-transgender body.
"This work examines invisible identities, those that specifically cross over race, gender and sexuality.
Being invisible yet visible; the South Asian woman who identifies as lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer, is often an identity that is, silenced, hidden, and un believed. Yet as a racialized woman her body is coded and gendered, and assumed heterosexuality projected onto that body. Where the language of 'queer' is read implicitly as White, its construction erases South Asian queer women.
The crux of this work is a process of revealing language, deciphering codes of difference, and (re)reading queerness differently as an identity which has race applied to it. Through collating interviews and portraits of women's stories, and weaving them into Bengali poetry hidden within the cloth; it seeks to throw light onto the (in)visibility of South Asian queer women.
The patterns are inverted characters from the Bengali alphabet, which conceal the poetry that underwrites the cloth. Asking the viewer to reexamine what it is they are looking at, and the unknown voices it contains. We do not all speak the same language; it is in acknowledging differences that we are able to see others.
A sound piece accompanies the work where you can listen to the piece of poetry. The poem which wouldn’t be the same if translated, speaks of challenging our perception of racialized queer identity, by listening to the silent voices, hearing the invisible stories, and by setting light to blackness we can see reflected, the blinding whiteness that masks our unspoken shadows."