LocationCity 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.
Discover the billboards in the city centre of Antwerp from 31th August until 21 September!
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.
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.
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.’
3. The Miracle
The city is not the roads, not the lighting, not the pavements, not the sewers. The city is its inhabitants.
‘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.’
4. Afghan Pride
Modern is not synonymous with Western.
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.’
5. Africa is coming
When I started in this profession. I thought I would be one of the last dressmakers.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.’
'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
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