Two South Asian art exhibitions

I visited two important exhibitions yesterday, The first was Gup Shup: From Textile to Tote, by Cath Braid and Rolla Khadduri (thanks to a suggestion by Bradford Textile artist, Hannah Lamb) at Bradford University’s Gallery II.
The two curators are partners in an organisation ‘ Polly&Me’ which is a development project working with the embroidery artisans of Chitral, a Province in the Hindu Kush region of North West Pakistan.

For this exhibition they have give the artisans a chance to produce their own work without any of the designers’ input. The results are beautiful embroidered illustrations and narratives of a significant part of the artisans’ own life. It might be a childhood memory or a particular routine chore or an event. These embroideries were made into fashionable modern leather bags. Some were exhibited as art pieces.
I particularly enjoyed the story of one lady remembering her baby brother being born and having to go out and get some chicken with her father for the chicken soup supper they would be having. As the girl carried the chicken in a bag on her way home, she got separated from her father. A scary looking dog appeared enticed by the tasty smell of the chicken. Frightened, she ran into someone’s house where the family living there shooed the dog away and looked after her until it was safe to go home. On arriving home she got a telling off for being late, but let off when hearing of her traumatic journey! They all sat laughing while she told the story over chicken soup with the new baby.
The next exhibition was between Kismet and Karma, South Asian Women Artists Respond to Conflict at the Leeds Art Gallery, an exhibition organised by Shisha, an agency that promotes and supports contemporary South Asian art and craft.

Above image: Elastic Dress, Anoli Perera, 2010

The artists were addressing contemporary issues faced by South Asian women. The above image is a huge installation of a dress made from knots of elastic. It stretches and clings to fit any body shape. Perera is dealing here with issues of women’s body image and how it is perceived in contemporary society.

I enjoyed Tayeba Begum Lipi’s work. She explores female identity in post colonial, modern South Asia through portraiture work and iconography. One of her pieces was a collaborative painting with a group of women from a Bangladeshi village community who traditionally tattoo themselves as a part of signifying each others’ identity. It was a painting of a females’s back decorated in these traditional tattoo patterns.

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