Thread Bearing Witness

Far from simply being a means to create beauty, art has historically been used to convey a narrative, engage with contemporary events, and to express a shared cultural heritage. Throughout history, suppressing and destroying art has been a tactic of those who would deny various groups their identity and humanity. Today, as the world experiences a global refugee crisis, those who are displaced face the erasure or disruption of their cultures. 

Thread Bearing Witness is a community project that uses art and textiles to learn from, show solidarity with, and raise funds for displaced people. It is a project that celebrates culture and identity, as well as community efforts. This art project is being led by textile artist Alice Kettle and researcher Tamsin Koumis, who are working with many groups, individuals and activities from across the UK to involve refugees and asylum seekers in the arts.

Thousands of people have gotten involved with the project, including many who have stitched a tree to show support for displaced people around the world. On small pieces of cotton, participants have embroidered tree motifs that will later be arranged into a large embroidery called Forest by Alice Kettle. Anyone wanting to contribute can do so, as long as the Whitworth receives all trees before 28th February 2019. Find out more here:

Alice Kettle is a well-known contemporary fibre and textile artist, who uses stitched textiles, to explore themes of modern life. As part of the wider project, an exhibition also named Thread Bearing Witness is currently on at the Whitworth. Works by Kettle and by people affected by the refugee crisis represent displacement, resilience and community. The exhibition runs until 24 February 2019 at The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6ER, United Kingdom.

Blog post by Jessica Edney


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