A woman on a sewing machine and another with a headscarf working on a laptop – these are two images Hafeeza Khan, 28, sewed on a piece of cloth. This was Ms. Khan’s idea of freedom and empowerment.
Shamima Mirja, a single mother who had never picked up a paintbrush in her life, drew a painting with birds flying in the backdrop of white clouds and a blue sky.
The artworks of Ms. Khan and Ms. Mirja are part of a stunning 41-foot-long and 8-foot-high tapestry. In all, 354 survivors of violence are displaying their art work at Kolkata’s Indian Museum, the oldest museum in the country.
They have drawn, painted, written and embroidered their dreams on coloured fabrics.
Towards one end of the tapestry, there are just words – “friendship,” “kalpana [imagination]”, “samman [respect]” in Hindi and “khawab [dream]” and “nijaat [relief]” in Urdu.
Alam Aara, an elderly woman, has written a message in Urdu on the tapestry, which roughly means that a person may find it difficult to take on challenges if she is alone, but if a group of people come together, then it becomes much easier.
The intricate tapestry is so full of images, paintings and words that it took a few minutes for Ms. Alara and also Ms. Khan and Ms. Mirja to locate their works.
After months of hard work and six rounds of a workshop, women who are not only from Kolkata but also from different parts of the State have put together the tapestry, which is on the walls of the Pre- and Proto-History Hall of the Indian Museum.
“The tapestry invites the viewers to look inwards and looks to change thoughts, attitudes and behaviour that discriminate against women. It is said that art changes people and people will change the world. We hope this tapestry will motivate the viewers to take steps to create a world free of violence,” said Anuradha Kapoor, director and founder of Swayam, the organisation that has put together the artwork with the women.
Experts who trained the women to participate in the unique exercise of collaborative art said the attempt was a three-stage process of release, evocation and expression. Alongside amazing creativity and artistry, the endeavour is to empower women and draw attention to the violence they face.
“It is wonderful that we are using this historical space for this tapestry, which is a famous and important place in India and Asia. I congratulate all the women who brought their vision to the public realm. I wish many people would see it and acknowledge the feelings of women,” said Astrid Wege, Director Goethe Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan, who inaugurated the exhibition.
Along with the tapestry, some comments and quotes by the women have been magnified and displayed at the gallery so that visitors can easily spot them.
The exhibition titled ‘Weaving Dreams - Women Imagine a Violence Free World’ will be on display at Indian Museum till April 30.