RAISA KABIR is an interdisciplinary artist, who utilises woven text/textiles, sound, video and performance to translate and visualise concepts concerning the politics of cloth, labour and embodied geographies. She addresses cultural anxieties surrounding nationhood, textile identities and the cultivation of borders; as well as examining the encoded violence in histories of labour in globalised neo-colonial textile production. Her (un)weaving performances comment on power, production, and the body as a living archive of collective trauma. She has participated in residencies and exhibited work at The Whitworth, The Tetley, Raven Row, Textile Arts Center NYC, and The Center of Craft Creativity and Design NC.
PERFORMANCE BY RAISA KABIR at the Whitworth from 18:30 - Free entry
Build me a loom off of your back and your stomach
'Build me a loom off of your back and your stomach... is a performance of durational dance, distance and diaspora. The artist Raisa Kabir weaves and dances, carrying the lengths of cloth-making labour throughout the gallery space. A visualisation of dislocated geographies, the weight of ongoing trauma, and their ghosts.
Textile and Place
12 - 13 APRIL 2018 Manchester School of Art & the Whitworth
The conference hosted by Manchester School of Art and the Whitworth draws upon Manchester past histories and contemporary associations with textile linked to place. Textile as a socially dynamic, communicative and active material offers a rich seam of enquiry into how textile participates and influences how we live. This conference seeks to examine how textiles connects with the idea of place in its histories, its production, sustainable future ecologies and in its narratives of migration, sociability and politics.
Textiles as materials are deeply linked to certain places, with associated specialist skills. They signify the nature of cultural identity, particularly relevant in the current socio-economic, political and global developments with Beyond Borders, an exhibition on South Asian textiles on at the Whitworth, providing context to this discussion.
"The body is a site of production" 2017 (resist, resist, resist) Weaving as a methodology, as a tool to use 'un-weaving' as a strategy to undo models of production/productivity, and re-situate the disabled body, and the racialised body so bound up with labours it cannot remove itself from. To spend 10hours weaving, building a loom, using the body as a loom, only to not produce cloth for any purpose or function. What does it mean to exist in this world and feel like your gender is unfunction, how trauma disables the body; the same body is a living archive, a geography of pain and trigger points. The body is a site of production. Resist resist resist.
Paragraphs and Borders conceptually stems from reading textiles as texts, and the transmission of language. The piece is a photograph of a handwoven piece of cotton cloth, stretched, compressed and zoomed in digitally until it is visually not recognisable as a textile any longer but resembles an abstract print. A distance is created between the intensive labour processes that had been produced to create the hand woven cloth, and the viewer. To reimagine a cloth imbued with the expected labours of a South Asian textile artist and manipulate the medium to throw it out of context, as commentary of the continued cycle of globalised racialised labour expected to continually meet demands of the consumer, or viewer. An unreadable text(ile) that re contextualises how the textile can be read. The piece is rooted in examining exhaustion, art production as labour, and the very physical labour of hand weaving and it's relationship to my disabled (queer brown) body. The labour processes are distilled into a sound piece instead to convey not the final piece of cloth, but the vast labours needed to produce and fashion a fine woven cotton fabric.
XANA https://xa-na.com/ Sound Artist based in London. We collaborated together to create a layered sound piece taken from the abstracted sounds of the labour involved in weaving a handloom woven cloth.
"The literary roots of postcolonial studies mean that debates about voice and, crucially, voicelessness, are familiar concerns. But it may be worth asking if it is fair to ‘read’ the textile in the same way that we might treat a piece of postcolonial literature. On the one hand, text and textile share numerous linguistic connections. It has, for example, been noted by scholars that the root of the word ‘text’ is shared with ‘textile’, essentially ‘to weave’.
The construction of texts share similarities with that of the textile. By this I mean the building up of small increments (words, threads) into a larger whole (sentences, paragraphs, cloth). As a result, there is a structural familiarity between the two disciplines that has been explored by scholars who observe that the knowledge of one discipline may then be transferred to another. "
Post colonial Textiles – Negotiating Dialogue – Jessica Hemmings Cross/Cultures: postcolonial studies across the disciplines
Clothes, Cloth and Culture Group meeting in February featured a collaboration between two young artists, Raisa Kabir and Raju Rage. They described how they use their art and textile practices to address gendered South Asian queer identity and the meanings of cotton cloth on the brown queer body. Raisa Kabir brought along examples of her woven textiles and Raju Rage dressed in a sari printed with archival photographs.
The artists worked together on the project "There is More at Stake Than Just 3 Metres of Cloth" which represents the migrations of South Asians from North India/ Panjab to East Africa to Britain and the symbolism encoded within the turban. Sociologist Nirmal Puwar offered her thoughts and questions followed by comments from the intrigued audience.
Read more about the participants on the webpage and an audio recording of the event is available below.
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.
A selection of the series "In/Visible Space." A series of visual essays that explore the interwoven links between dress and space, as components in the construction and visibility of South Asian LBTQ identity. Questioning how gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity affect how queer presenting brown bodies are read and perceived in context to public/private space in contrast to their own gaze. The montages have been shown in London and Amsterdam. https://www.in-visiblespace.co.uk/
Abstract for “Binding the sari: the politics of space, dress and the brown, queer femme body”
"South Asian Queer femme women, because of the way racialized gender is culturally coded as heterosexual are often rendered invisible – partly because of their feminine presentation, as many femmes will attest, but more so because of the way their gender and ethnicity are inextricably linked and defined by others. Their queer authenticity repeatedly questioned, and their sexuality framed only when in proximity to a visibly queer presenting person or occupying a LGBTQ space, and even then their entry into those spaces may be denied.
Dress is an integral component in building visible connections to various aspects of a cultural identity, such as identifying with a youth culture, expressing one's gender or sexuality, and sometimes an ethnic identity attached to diasporic roots. We know that dress can equally be instrumental in the construction of queer identity, though popular representations of queer identity and culture are often implicitly racialized as White, while 'authentic' queer identity is visually represented with Eurocentric formations of queer masculinity, or femininity.
Through examining the use of dress as a tool to resist these norms of Eurocentricity and heterosexuality, we can highlight the ways race, gender, culture and sexuality are ascribed to particular bodies in particular spaces, and how radical dress can affect the visibility of South Asian femme women in relation to public/private space. A different look at racialised representations of queer femininity, and the making or (un)making of gendered ethnicity. This piece begins to investigate the role of ethnic and queer femme performativity in constructing racialized queer femininity. Through visual case studies and interviews, it explores the intrinsic relationships between dress, identity, and culture in the formation of South Asian queer femme identity." Raisa Kabir