On the 15th and 22nd February myself and Amber Khokhar (freelance artist) visited Aaina Women’s Group and West Hampstead Elderly Asian Women’s Group and delivered creative collage making workshops.
For these workshops participants were asked to create collages based on the following five themes;
‘Spice’- For centuries, Europeans considered spices the equal of gold. They used the valuable seasonings that came from far away Eastern Lands to relieve the symptoms of rheumatism, gout and colic. They added nutmeg to flavour food and drink, and used cloves to preserve food. Cloves were also said to cure earache and pepper to suppress colds. Nutmeg pomanders were thought to cure plague and a spoonful before bedtime to increase sexual desire. Women kept spices in lockets around their necks to freshen their breath. These Spices came from Asian countries such as India and Sri Lanka. At the beginning of the Seventeenth Century the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was created which grew to be one of the world’s most powerful trading monopolies and excelled in the trading of spices. The VOC eclipsed all of its rivals in the Asia trade. Between 1602 and 1796 the VOC sent almost a million Europeans to work in the Asia trade on 4,785 ships, and netted for their efforts more than 2.5 million tons of Asian trade goods. Consequently the Dutch Republic grew into a very wealthy and prosperous nation. Here is a map of the VOC’s trading routes and the items they transported from one country to another;
‘Treasures’- This themes was inspired by all the exotic and beautiful treasures that the Dutch East India Company brought to the Dutch Republic. We hope that project participants will be able to respond to this theme by thinking about their own personal treasures. It is also inspired by Jan Jansz de Heem’s Still life with a Monkey;
This ambitious composition is one of the finest works attributed to Jan Jansz. de Heem. The profusion of fruit, vegetables, crustacea, glass, silver, and porcelain affords the artist the opportunity to display his considerable imitative skill. On a deeper level the subject may be seen as a celebration of the fruits of civilisation, trade, peace and prosperity with the inclusion of imported objects such as the Chinese porcelain bowls. In contrast, the viewer is reminded of the transitory nature of human life and the dangers of over-indulgence in material excess by the inclusion of the broken column and classical frieze.
‘Journeys’ – This theme was inspired by the long and adventures journeys that the Dutch East India Journey embarked on to reach the treasures of the East. We hope that the theme will inspire project participants to consider the many journeys that they have made throughout their lives. This theme is also inspired by the many beautiful painting’s we have in the Wallace Collection of Dutch ships sailing in and out of harbour;
‘Identity’ – This theme was inspired by the creation of the Dutch Republic in 1588 and the new national identity it was asserting for itself. (Until the 16th century, the Low Countries – roughly now corresponding to Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg – consisted of a number of duchies, counties and bishoprics, most of which were under the supremacy of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1568 the Netherlands, led by William I of Orange, revolted against the King of Spain because of high taxes and persecution of Protestants by the government. This was the start of the Eighty Years’ War between the Netherlands and Spain. In 1588 the Dutch provinces became a republic. The Union of Utrecht is regarded as the foundation of the Republic of the Seven United Provinces, which was not recognized by the Spanish Empire until the Twelve Years’ Truce in 1609. The provinces of the republic were, in official feudal order: the duchy of Guelders (Gelre in Dutch), the counties of Holland and Zeeland, the former bishopric of Utrecht, the lordship of Overijssel, and the free provinces of Friesland and Groningen). We hope that this theme will encourage project participants to contemplate their identity and the ways in which they define and express themselves.
‘Inside/ Out’- This theme was inspired by the numerous domestic scenes depicted in the Wallace Collection’s Dutch Masterpieces. Many of these domestic scenes depict the ideal image of a women in the seventeenth century Dutch Republic which was a modest women who kept charge of a tidy and organised household. However, within many of these paintings there are often windows and pictures of maps which hint at the idea of going beyond the home into the wider world. These scenes make a lovely juxtaposition to all of the beautiful Dutch land and seascapes we have in the Wallace Collection. We hope that this theme will motivate project participants to explore their own homes and local environments for inspiration to craft creative artwork.
For the collage making workshops I brought along printed out images of artworks from the Wallace Collection and other images relating to these themes for the groups to cut up and arrange in their collages. The groups also experimented with adding tissue paper, watercolours and inks to their collages. The ladies seemed to really enjoy creating the collages and most ladies chose the theme of ‘Identity’ to make collages about themselves and their own lives. Participants therefore brought in old photographs of themselves that were photocopied, cut up and arranged into beautiful collages. Other popular themes for the collages were ‘Spice’ as many participants remember growing up next to and enjoying the fruits of nutmeg trees, clove and pepper fields. ‘Journeys’ was another popular theme as many of the participants remember travelling to England as little girls or young ladies.
Here are some pictures of the groups busy at work and the beautiful collages they made;
Kulsum Bukhari is a lady from Aaina Women’s Group and she has sent me a fascinating explanation of her work and motivations behind making her collage;
“My name is Kulsum Bukhari and my Wallace Collection project has been a learning curve. Starting on the first day when the curators at the Wallace recounted the Dutch history as depicted by their artists. I tried to include history in my collage too. I was especially interested in artefacts of the last Muslim King of India ‘Tippu Sultan’.
My collage was inspired by Tippu’s artefacts at the Wallace Collection hence I have incorporated treasures of Tippu in my collage; my collage illustrates ‘My journey’ to Britain where I found a new home.
My heritage and culture is Pakistani. Pakistani people were formally known as Indian Muslims like Tippu. Pakistan emerged out of the British withdrawal from India.
My journey to UK is perhaps a consequence of the Dutch and British East India Company and the usurpation of South Asia by Britain. Hence the relationship between Britain and Pakistani people existed for hundreds of years (though often dysfunctional).
The traffic from east to west (Britain) prevailed for many many centuries now. Many of the British soldiers in the 1st and 2nd world war were South Asian Muslims. Some of these soldiers journeyed to England. Before this Camels and their Baluchistan trainers went to Australia helping Britain to establish it colony. My ancestors were fairly instrumental in helping Britain established itself as masters of the world for they fought in front lines positions for the British armies in Africa and against Ottomans. After the war thousands of Pakistani men came to re-build England destroyed by Germans. My father and father in law were amongst those.
I did paint an immigrant, “me”, in my collage and a Road paved with gold depicting historical events and traffic to UK. Immigration explains my presence in England. But the term PAKI remained at the forefront of my mind, as it was my other name at school back in the good old day! So I decided to show PAKIstan in quarter of the collage.
Demography of Pakistan in thumbnails … outside the old cities Pakistan is superbly beautiful as it houses most stunning geography, an awesome diversity of people, plant life and wildlife. Nevertheless, the most tragic of political situations continue to exist testing the resilience of Pakistani people who live under threat of death on daily basis.
Habashi people of Pakistan are of Afro hair, dark skin with most beautiful of African features. My collage contains famous black activists Yacob Kamabrani and Shahid Kambarani. One small Habashi community have a tradition of feeding meat to crocodiles and holding newborn babies over the croc’s mouth for blessings. I was told that in the last 500 years there have been Zero fatalities. Although I could never go in the croc pen I now see ‘Crocodile Dundee’ in a new light because I have seen a 10 year old sit 10 inches from its mouth and feed it.
Northern areas house white European looking people. Some anthropologists think original white people may have descended from that area and expanded into Europe. Some of these people are impoverished and they have to live in fear of drone strike and other external dangers…
Hazara people of Pakistan look Chinese and I have included an image of Pakistan’s Kung Fu champion called Mubarak Shaan. These people are most beautiful and you can see remnants of Chinese features in them.
There are some images of gay and transvestite communities and the Pakistani obsession with polo whether on horseback, elephant or camel. I’ve also included a picture of a building that looks like a lotus, which is the Pakistan Museum. The other building shows the incompetency that Pakistan is globally famous for. This 7 star hotel was abandoned before completion due to corruption. I included brilliant landscapes and mountain thumbnails! So the word Paki means to me people who come from the beautiful land, rich in resources and amazingly resilient people”.