Anya Paintsil, a Welsh-Ghanaian textile artist, has been creating a buzz in the artworld. Combining her own hair, synthetic braids and lived experience with her childhood skills of rug hooking and punch needle embroidery, Paintsil’s work is a powerful statement of resistance and resilience. We’re very excited that Anya will be hosting a virtual workshop for Selvedge on Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 May where she will be teaching participants the art of rug hooking and how to transform scraps and non-traditional materials into unique rugs.
Image: Anya Paintsil, Mam, Mair a fi, 2020. Wool, acrylic, cotton, human hair and synthetic hair on hessian, 38 x 35 inches.
Born in 1991 and brought up in Wrexham, Paintsil was one of only two Welsh-speaking children identified as a person of colour (the other being her sister). Living with their white mother, and as children of a black father, the artist explained in a recent interview with Ed Cross Fine Art that ‘they came to believe one inherited skin colour from “your dad’s side”; after all, Wrexham offered very little evidence to the contrary.’ ‘People told me all the time that I must be adopted. That my mum couldn’t possibly be my mum’, says Paintsil. ‘For most of our childhood, there was a lot of focus on what made us not white – what made us different’, she explains. ‘Those differences felt magnified by everybody around us.’ The combination of nonwhiteness with their Welsh-speaking identities made Paintsil feel a heightened focus of intense scrutiny. Paintsil remembers everybody repeatedly asking her 'where are you from?' and then not being satisfied with her answer that she was from Wrexham.
Although home life was not without its problems, Paintsil developed a deep love of rug hooking and embroidery which had been passed down on her maternal side. As she developed her art practice, Paintsil found the physical manipulation of wool hooking, pulling and punching through the hessian provided a form of comfort and solace. Plus, the physicality of the techniques also became an immediate connection to her surrounding landscape, having grown up around farms.
Image: Anya Paintsil, Mair at Cylch Meithrin, 2020. Acrylic, wool and synthetic hair on hessian. 42' x 36'
Like so many ‘people of colour’ who have grown up in the UK, Paintsil has experienced being looked at, scrutinised and on the receiving end of racist actions and comments. Given the totality of these life experiences, it is not surprising that Paintsil’s work often takes an autobiographical narrative, concentrating on abstracted and exaggerated features such as skin colour, lips, eyes, nose, teeth and hair.
Written by Uthra Rajgopal.
The above extract was taken from Uthra Rajgopal’s article Top of the Pile which featured in our latest issue,Selvedge Issue 99 Home. Find out how to read the rest of the article here.
Find out more about Anya’s rug hooking workshop on the event page: Rug Hooking, Virtual Workshop with Anya Paintsil