This is a short research film made during a textile research residency in Bangladesh. Meeting and working with local Jamdani weavers and their families. Rupganj is located just outside of Dhaka, here I met Alamin Bhai's family business, a weaving workshop nestled amidst many others in a village nearly entirely dedicated to making and setting up looms, and the weaving of Jamdani sarees.
Performance part one - Making the Warp - "Your threads cut my fingers..."
This short video outlines the first performance of "Your threads cut my fingers...." Creating the fine, cotton warp which was then used in the second performance piece of "Your threads cut my fingers... they bleed yet again and again" at INIVA. This warp was beamed on to use on the loom, slowing drawing and unravelling the threads across the beams before being cut.... Undoing and re/doing the repetitive actions and labours of (historically violent) textile production in making a reflection on creativity/bodies/production and capital...
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 http://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
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
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.
“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.