We Gather – Craft Exhibition featuring five female makers of Black and Asian Heritage
New Crafts Council exhibition We Gather features five female makers of Black and Asian heritage whose work shares a commitment to craft and its cultural value, 17 November 2021 – 5 February 2022
We Gather exhibition opens at the Crafts Council Gallery on 17 November and features five female Black and Asian heritage artists. Whilst their chosen materials and disciplines vary, their work shares a commitment to craft and its cultural value. The makers are Shaheen Ahmed, Lorna Hamilton-Brown, Omeima Mudawi-Rowlings, Francisca Onumah and Onome Otite.
The title We Gather refers to the gathering of ideas, skills and emotions embedded within these five craft practices and the meeting of perspectives that have been underrepresented in the industry. It is also a symbol of gratitude towards the communities who gathered their courage, bodies, and voices to support justice for Black lives, which instigated deeper conversations between the UK’s Black makers and the Crafts Council.
“This exhibition has offered us a unique opportunity to curate in honour of women who share similar experiences and frames of reference to our own, but also within a mainstream cultural organisation that we haven’t traditionally seen ourselves reflected in. We are excited to bring together their collection of works, which offer audiences fresh visibility to crafts that has emotional depth, space and social resonance.” Curators of We Gather, Rosie Ross & Griffi.
The We Gather exhibition came out of Craft Expertise, the AHRC-funded UKRI/RCUK Innovation Fellowship led by Dr Karen Patel of Birmingham City University, collaborating with Crafts Council. The research aimed to raise awareness of inequalities in the current craft economy in the UK and highlight the various challenges women of colour face in the sector.
Commissioned by Dr Karen Patel as part of her research, each artist in the exhibition will present new and existing work.
Birmingham-based artist Shaheen Ahmed uses maps to reflect narratives of statelessness and disparagement. Her work is layered with a multitude of craft processes and motifs, including calligraphy and Islamic geometry. She wore a blindfold while making them connect with the emotions and experiences of oppressed societies.
East Sussex-based artist Lorna Hamilton-Brown, known for her provocative textile works that challenge preconceptions of knitting and crochet, has created a knitted magazine cover – ‘We Mek Magazine’- full of symbolism with a central figure inspired by political activist Angela Davis and with her watch set to 9.25, the time that George Floyd lost his life to police brutality.
British-Sudanese textile artist Omeima Mudawi-Rowlings will present a new light installation. The work incorporates dyeing, screen-printing, and Devoré techniques to explore themes of identity, communication, heritage, and womanhood. The artist is influenced by her Sudanese heritage, which is reflected in her use of Arabic geometry, colour, and form.
Ghanaian-born silversmith Francisca Onumah has created three emotive and figurative vessels in her new work ‘In our sKin’ (2021) that reflect family, relationships and historical images of Ghanaian people in everyday life. Their abstracted patterns are deconstructed from traditional Ghanaian motifs, fabrics, and crafted objects. Instead, marks and textures are repeatedly hammered into sheet metal to mirror and resemble the patterns found in textiles and fabrics.
London-based artist Onome Otite has created a new textile work inspired by the support network between women, the group of figures in her piece are based on close friends of hers that have inspired her. She has also intentionally chosen five figures to mirror the relevance of the five women taking part in the We Gather exhibition. She has hand-stitched loose-folded fabrics across her hand-drawn statistics, which each of her subjects has donated.
At the centre of the exhibition is a gathering space. Material from the commissioning artists will be displayed alongside other pioneering female makers whose work celebrates craft within everyday contexts. Among these will be works by artists Jasleen Kaur and Magdalene Odundo DBE from the Crafts Council Collection. We Gather is a site for learning and reflection, with books, reports and images encouraging visitors to discuss visibility, cultural traditions, and the value of women’s contribution to craft within everyday contexts.
The exhibition also features a selection of objects and portraits of female artisans from The Black Artisans, a photographic project by Jo Sealy that celebrates Black artisans in traditional sectors of UK heritage crafts and gives visibility to doing practices derived from African and Caribbean cultural heritage, including steel pan making and calabash art.
The exhibition graphic design is by Rose Nordin, co-founder of OOMK (One of My Kind).