News | Thursday, 31st August 2017

Textiles project Thread Bearing Witness to tell refugee stories

Professor Alice Kettle's exhibition will be held in Winchester and then The Whitworth in 2018

(image - Alice Kettle, Sea (detail)  Photo: Joe Low)

A textile artist is working in partnership with refugees, including displaced women artists, to create monumental textile works which tell their individual stories. 

Alice Kettle, Professor of Textile Arts at Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University, has drawn inspiration for her project Thread Bearing Witness from her daughter Tamsin Koumis, who has worked closely with refugees.

From the Barberini Tapestries to the Bayeux Tapestry, monumental textiles in the form of large-scale narrative embroideries, weaves and tapestries have been used to illustrate contemporary events as enduring material chronicles. Kettle uses her stitched textiles to tell the personal stories within the wider context of the global refugee crisis. 

Thread Bearing Witness will showcase new textile works made by Kettle and include further works made through oral contribution and co-creation with refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. These present the individual and collective textile narratives of refugee women and children.

The first of these textile works, Sea, will be launched in October at her Alice Kettle: Threads solo exhibition, curated by Hampshire Cultural Trust, at The Gallery, Winchester Discovery Centre, which is complimented by a further show of other works by Alice Kettle at Candida Stevens Gallery in Chichester (4 – 25 November 2017).

Whitworth exhibition

Further works will be developed in 2018 through ongoing dialogue and workshops with refugees in England. These will all be presented in the major concluding exhibition and installation, Thread Bearing Witness, at the Whitworth in Manchester in October 2018. 

The Whitworth exhibition is developed through a partnership with The Travelling Heritage Bureau of Displaced Women Artists, a Digital Woman’s Archive North project identifying, collecting and sharing the heritage of displaced women artists who are refugees or asylum seekers and ensuring the participation of women artists in contributing to arts archives.

Alice Kettle said:

 “Textiles make connections with home and community. In its substance it maps our cultural identities. I cannot be an observer. Textiles is my way to engage, to show I care in a meaningful way, in a medium where I have a voice. I simply want to help and make a difference, maybe like all mothers do for their children.”

Thread Bearing Witness is financially supported by Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University, Design Manchester, and public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England. The Travelling Heritage Bureau of Displaced Women Artists is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thread Bearing Witness is also supported by Hampshire Cultural Trust.

Alice Kettle: Threads

28 October 2017 – 14 January 2018

The Gallery, Winchester Discovery Centre, Jewry Street, Winchester, SO23 8SB

Thread Bearing Witness

1 October 2018 – 1 April 2019 (TBC)

The Whitworth, Oxford Rd, Manchester M15 6ER

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