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A series of 5 workshops were held throughout the exhibition, each responding to the themes of Sustainable Futures. Participants explored Introspection, Decolonisation, Fusion & Expansion through Freewriting, Collaging, Embroidery, Knitting, Printmaking & Quilting.

These workshops were as much about learning a new skill as they were about creating a safe space for dialogue and community-building. 

Facilitated by Nikita Aashi Chadha (they/she)

Space, Place & Belonging

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An interactive workshop was held for diaspora writers, artists, and creatives, which delved into the topics of “space, place, and belonging” in various ways.

 

The workshop momentarily looked back to the past, incorporating some postcolonial literary theory to situate participants. However, it was not a theory-heavy session. 

 

Participants reflected on how “space, place, and belonging” were expressed within different art forms: a poem by Priyanka Moorjani was read, and participants were invited to review two other pieces of artwork that were on display at Dhaga’s Sustainable Futures exhibition.

 

Afterward, there was a period of reflection on the learnings and the artwork studied, followed by freewriting exercises. Nikita provided guidance and bespoke prompts before these exercises began. There was also an opportunity at the end for participants to share what they had written, though there was no pressure or expectation to do so.

Decolonising the Closet:
South Asian Queer Narratives 

Facilitated by Aarandeep Sian (they/them)

A creative workshop was conducted exploring intersectional and South Asian Queer and Trans narratives of 'the closet'. The phrase 'to come out of the closet', often seen as highly westernized, was discussed in the context that it is not always a feasible option for individuals with layered and intersectional identities. This workshop brought to light the less commonly heard alternative narratives, particularly from South Asian and other people of color. 

The participants delved into various interpretations of the closet: whether it could be a safe space offering protection, a medium for expression or experimentation, a sporadically visited space for safety around certain family members or at religious/cultural events, a haven from the cis-heteronormative gaze, or a shared space with chosen family where one can be their authentic and queer self. The workshop highlighted the closet as embodying and representing queerness, illustrating its nature as a contradictory, fluid, and malleable entity that is constantly evolving.

Central to this workshop was a physical ‘closet’ art installation. Participants were encouraged to draw, paint, and collage their own meanings of the closet onto this installation, thereby creating 'the collective closet'. This collective closet emerged as a physical manifestation of a queered structure, an expressive, collaborative piece of infrastructure that deconstructed perspectives commonly found in white queer spaces to uncover new ones. It represented an ongoing project that could be added to throughout the exhibition, reflecting queer tactics of reappropriating spaces and reclaiming. This installation underscored the need for new and intersectional queer spaces that center alternative queer narratives.

Print & Quilt: Creating a quilt that is a homage to your personal identity

A workshop focusing on the identities of South Asian Muslims in Britain, particularly their struggle to balance Islamic faith with Hindu-influenced heritage, was held. It explored the possibility of intertwining both elements of identity while growing up in Britain, and whether one layer of identity must be abandoned for the other to flourish.

Inspired by traditional Bangladeshi quilts, Nakshi Kantha, the workshop utilized pre-made lino cutouts featuring Islamic, South Asian, and British motifs. Participants used these cutouts to create patterns on second-hand fabrics, each symbolizing different aspects of their identity.

The central concept of the workshop was the idea that community shapes and influences personal identity. This setting provided a platform for participants to engage in conversations about their personal experiences while collaboratively creating a quilt. This quilt, made from printed patches, aimed to immortalize and pay homage to the complex topic of interwoven identities in the South Asian Muslim community in Britain.

Facilitated by Aneeka Choudhry (she/her)

Sewing Solidarity with Mehfil

Facilitated by Naila Ali (she/her) & Evie Jesuraj (she/her) from Mehfil

A Collective Banner + Embroidery Making Workshop was held by Mehfil, where participants joined together to create their own part of a patchwork banner. This banner symbolized the unity of the South Asian diaspora in the UK, encompassing diverse elements such as borders, religion, languages, migration routes, and climate solidarity. The workshop provided an opportunity for individuals to recognize and celebrate the common thread that led them all to the United Kingdom as members of the diaspora. Participants either learned a new skill in embroidery or simply joined for engaging conversations. The event fostered a sense of community, with Mehfil welcoming everyone to share the table, symbolizing a collective effort in creating a meaningful and representative piece of art. The resulting patchwork banner was a testament to the diverse yet unified experiences of the South Asian diaspora in the UK.

Knitted Narratives: A Story Sharing Knitting Workshop

Facilitated by Zarah Ahmed 

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Knitted Narratives was a knitting workshop where participants came together to explore sustainable textile practices using second-hand saree materials to create knitted art.

During the workshop, a space was created for participants to reflect and share stories of their South Asian identity and the memories and emotions evoked by heritage textiles. An example discussed was the memory of watching family members skillfully make beautiful saree pleats, a task that seemed second nature to them.

The workshop involved several activities:

  • Learning how to create yarn from second-hand saree materials.

  • Teaching basic hand knitting techniques.

  • Guiding participants in creating beautiful knitted art.

The workshop was open to all skill levels, and guidance was provided for beginner knitters. While materials were supplied, participants were also encouraged to bring their own old sarees to use in the workshop.

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