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Textile as Resistance: Billboards in the city

An impressive billboard project with a selection of quotes and striking images from "Textile as Resistance" puts the stories of journalist Samira Bendadi and photographer Mashid Mohadjerin in the middle of the city.

  • Location

    City Centre of Antwerp

Description of the exhibition

After a successful edition of the exhibition "Textiles as Resistance" in Texture Kortrijk in November 2019, this unique story will have a sequel on the streets. Instead of traveling on to Kunsthal Extra City as planned, MoMu decided to translate and tell the power of the exhibition in an alternative way in response to the Corona crisis.

Dig deeper

Discover the billboards in the city centre of Antwerp from 31th August until 21 September!

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1. The Thread of Life

The most important thing for me was for these people who have lost everything to know that they have a place in society, that they are citizens. I wanted them to know that they are not just shadows.

Zena Sabbagh, former teacher of Lycée Français in Aleppo, Beirut

When she talks about “here”, Zena Sabbagh is literally talking about her living room. One year into her stay in the Lebanese capital, she transformed this living room into a studio and meeting place where women try to pick up the thread of their lives again through sewing, embroidery and textile printing. The warmth and friendliness of the place embrace you as soon as you enter her apartment.

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  • Zena in her apartment
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Zena's workshop. Beirut, Lebanon
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Zena's workshop. Beirut, Lebanon
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Dolls in traditional Palestinian festival clothing
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Dolls in traditional Palestinian festival clothes
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Wooden doll in traditoina Syrian clothing
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    Mashid Mohadjerin

2. Embroidering not to forget

‘What does it mean to be a Palestinian today?’, Samira Salah asks herself. ‘My daughter has French nationality and my other daughter has German nationality because their husbands have these nationalities. This question has been the subject of discussion for a long time among the young generation of Palestinians. They’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a piece of paper that determines who you are. Nationality is not identity. Ultimately, the Palestinian issue is not a matter for Palestinians alone. It is a universal and humane issue. You don’t have to be a Palestinian to embrace the Palestinian cause and stand up for Palestinians’ rights. That’s why I believe in returning.’

  • 'Samira Salah, founder Our’ Country’s Heritage. Beirut, Lebanon
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Sewing workshop in shatila, Palestine refugee camp. Beirut, Lebanon (2019)
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Refugee camp Shatilla. Beirut, Lebanon
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • ‘I never fled when there was fighting. Everyone went away and returned when it became quiet. I saw how exhausting that was. I refused to leave my house’ - Malak Bakoor, co-founder Shatila Collective. Beirut, Lebano
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Refugee camp Shatilla. Beirut, Lebanon
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Building on the outskirts of Beirut where many Syrian refugees are housed
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Street scene in Beirut, Lebanon
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • View from Samira Salah's room. Beirut, Lebanon
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    Mashid Mohadjerin

3. The Miracle

The city is not the roads, not the lighting, not the pavements, not the sewers. The city is its inhabitants.

Arpi Mangassarian, co-founder Art & Craft Heritage Centre, Beirut

‘It happened in 1915. The refugee caravan continued on its way, but my great-grandmother could not. She no longer had the strength to continue walking. She had lost the donkey that carried her. Her knees hurt terribly. Then she said to her daughter – that is, my grandmother: “Nazili, leave me here, leave me alone, I want to be relieved of the pain.” My grandmother answered: “I’m not leaving you behind, I’ll carry you on my shoulders, on my back.” And my great-grandmother said: “Listen, you leave, you move on and you don’t look back.” My grandmother obeyed. She left her mother behind and went on with the group.’

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  • Arpi Mangassarian, the founder of the Badguèr Art & Craft Heritage Center - Beirut, Lebanon (2019)
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Arpi's parents, Marie Melikian and Noubar Mangassarian, dance to traditional Armenian music at the Festival of Survival
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Arpi's parents, Marie Melikian and Noubar Mangassarian
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    Mashid Mohadjerin

4. Afghan Pride

Modern is not synonymous with Western.

Zolaykha Sherzad, architect and fashion designer Zarif, Zwitserland

The young girl who fled the war with her parents at the age of ten and found a safe haven in Switzerland has never forgotten the country of her birth, even though she managed to suppress that feeling for a long time. ‘I left my country brutally. In your teens, you try to deny your origins. I wanted to blend into the Swiss context. It was only after completing my studies and starting work that I began looking for my roots. Apart from a few nostalgic memories, I had no connections with Afghanistan.’

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  • Zolaykha Sherzad, designer
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • The new collection of Zarif, brand founded by Sherzad, is temporarily on display in an angès b. boutique in Paris, France
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Maria in her traditional Afghan dress. Antwerp, Belgium
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    Mashid Mohaderin

5. Africa is coming

When I started in this profession. I thought I would be one of the last dressmakers.

Idriss, dressmaker, Brussel

‘When I started in this profession, I thought I would be one of the last dressmakers. African fabric was for the mamas. But now young people who’ve never set foot in Africa want to show up in an African outfit on all their festive occasions, from baptisms to engagements and marriages.’

The story that wax print fabric originated in Asia, because it was inspired by the Indonesian technique of batik, and that it was introduced to the African continent by the Dutch company Vlisco at the end of the 19th century, is something of which Idriss and Alpha Dialo are unaware. Nor are they particularly interested in it. What they do know is that each country has its own prints and that those from Ghana are the most popular, that the best wax fabrics come from the Netherlands and the Chinese ones are of inferior quality. Most importantly, African textiles ought to be produced in Africa by African companies. It’s ultimately about economics.

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  • Tailor Idriss
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Clothes by designer Kristal Bukasa at a show during African Fashion Week. Meise Botanic Garden, Belgium
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Look at a show during Africa Fashion Week. Meise Botanic Garden, Belgium
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Sewing atelier of Alpha Dialo in the Mantonge suburb. Brussel, Belgium
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    Mashid Mohadjerin

6. Spiritualism in white

When a taxidriver in Pakistan tells you he is a Sufi, it's his way of saying he's not one of those terrorists.

Jonas Slaats, writer and social activist, Belgium

The dichotomy between Sufism and Islam has been and continues to be built upon. Islam is dismissed today as religious terror and Sufism is presented as the solution. Muslims too use this rhetoric. ‘When a taxi driver in Pakistan tells you he is a Sufi, he’s not trying to indicate that he is following a certain direction such as Sunni or Shia Islam. It’s his way of saying he’s not one of those terrorists. It’s a way to win points with Westerners’, says Jonas Slaats.

Clothing has a strong symbolic significance for Sufi orders. One of the most important items of clothing of the Mevlevi is the hirka, a woollen, shirt-like garment or a long-sleeved coat. By wearing a hirka, a person shows that he knows the principles of the sect to which he belongs and of religious law. The hirka refers to worldly life, while the white tunic represents a person’s shroud. When the Mevlevi dervish, as part of the whirling ceremony, throws off the hirka, it means he is turning his back on the world to come closer to God.

  • Tahsin Surucu of the Haqqani Mevlevi Dervishes
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Saeed studied with his master for seven years to learn Sufi dance. Before a performance with the Tevazu Sufi Music Ensemble. Amsterdam, the Netherlands
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Tahsin Surucu of the Haqqani Mevlevi Dervishes
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    Mashid Mohadjerin

7. Farewell

The muezzin recites the call to evening prayer. The father gestures with a hand to place him on the floor, towards Mecca. It’s the second time he has asked. The last time. He is conscious until the last second and does what needs to be done. He does not forget to pronounce his shahada again. She sits next to him and sees his soul struggling to leave his body. Death is like removing wool from a thorn plant, as painful and difficult.

Halima said: 'I chaired a women’s association and asked the women if they were interested in the theme of ‘ritual washing of the dead’. They were. I served as the model. I was the body that had to be washed and wrapped in the shroud. It did something to me. I crawled into my role and thought: it’s done, life is over and now what? A mass of questions occurred to me at that time. “What have I done with my life?”, I asked myself.’

  • Preparations for a workshop of ritual washing. Borgerhout, Antwerpen
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • A student is being wrapped during the ritual washing workshop. The face is covered only at the last moment, to let close family members give a final greeting
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • A student is being wrapped during the ritual washing workshop. The face is covered only at the last moment, to let close family members give a final greeting
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • An apron is worn while wrapping the body
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    Mashid Mohadjerin
  • Shroud, fabric is laid on the table during a workshop ritual washing. Borgerhout, Antwerp
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    Mashid Mohadjerin

'Textile as Resistance' is an initiative of MoMu. this exhibition was on show in Texture Kortrijk from 15 November 2019 - 16 February 2020. Due to the Corona crisis, the exhition has been transformed to a billboard project on view in the city centre of Antwerp

Exhibition Catalogue

Along with the exhibition the book 'Textile as Resistance' is published in collaboration with Hannibal Publishing (€29,95, bilingual edition English-Dutch, 144 pages, softcover, ISBN 978 94 6388 723 6)

Exhibition under the lead of
Mashid Mohadjerin
Samira Bendadi