Kashmiri Arts Festival
Here, Kate Morgan-Clare writes about a Birmingham workshop which she ran for Creative Cohesion-West Midlands, on 2nd October 2017. Creative Cohesion is an organisation that uses creative art form, community events and educational opportunities to work to improve health and wellbeing. They work to enhance cultural relations and cohesion between communities, support young people to access employment and training, support families in parenting skills and responsibilities, deliver programmes to break barriers between different groups and, work with other organisations to create networks to counter isolation. Kate writes:
Friends of the Sidney Nolan Trust Shafaq Hussain and Rani Rashid invited us to run a textile and embroidery workshop at the first Kashmiri Arts Festival in Birmingham this month.
We’ve a long standing connection with Shafaq who has brought many young people from the Sandwell area of Birmingham to workshops at the Rodd in his role as youth officer for the local authority’s Young People’s Services.
Shafaq also has very strong roots in his local Asian community and together with his friend and colleague Rani – a social worker and active in her community they organised a ten day long festival dedicated to Kahmiri culture. The festival included Sufi music and poetry, storytelling, talks, readings from award winning authors, exhibition and workshops and has been really well supported within the Kashmiri communities in Birmingham. The festival marks the fortieth anniversary of a large migration of Kashmiri people to Birmingham.
I met women of all ages from the Saltley area of the city at their local community centre – Saltley Community Association Women’s Enterprise Building. The centre is just off Alum Rock Road – a vibrant independent high street with many fabric and clothing shops, which the community centre manager explained attracts visitors from Manchester and London in their coach loads buying for weddings and other cultural celebrations. He was clearly very proud of this thriving community. We had a quick look around the high street whilst popping out for more embroidery threads: the shops were a delight for the eyes - hundreds of heavily embroidered silks and sheer fabrics in a rainbow of colours, ribbons, veils, headdresses… I was very distracted but did have a workshop to run!
The women I met were warm, relaxed and chatty and got straight into the workshop activities with ease. We were using applique and embroidery stitches to decorate fabric panels which will subsequently be stitched together to form a wall hanging.
Kashmiri textiles are traditionally decorated with elaborate multi-coloured embroidery and one participant explained how when she was living in Kashmir she would embroider everything made from fabric – sheets, clothing, hangings - to give colour and decoration to everyday objects.
Conversations ranged from home life, the experiences of Kashmiri people during partition; the importance of education, personal aspirations and the sharing of skills and knowledge by women within their community.
Our stitching was accompanied by Sufi songs from one of the participants and delicious Kashmiri pink tea brought along by another. One participant told me about she would like to work as an artist running workshops for people with mental health issues, another young woman recently graduated with a degree in photography talked about how she loves painting and would like to develop this as part of her practice. We talked about the group coming to The Rodd for a workshop next spring…
Thank you to Rani for inviting the Trust to take part in the festival, for her invaluable help at the workshop and congratulations on the Festival's success.