Hanging by a Thread exhibitions underway: Mosaics for Afghan women

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Exhibitions as part of the Hanging by a Thread project are taking place across the world. The project aims to raise awareness of the plight of Afghan women and girls, and involves over 1,200 experienced and amateur mosaic artists from 46 countries. Each artist has made a small segment of glass mosaic, which is being joined together to create a series of giant scarfs.

Initiated by Bady Essid Jaballah from Tunisia, the scarf concept took shape under the art director Madeleine Turgeon from Canada. The United Nations International Year of Glass 2022 is supporting this project around the globe. 

From left: Sections of the scarf by Mieke Ceusters (Belgium), Nawal Chaouane (Algeria) and Thomas Denker (Germany). Photos above, and main photo, courtesy of the artists / Bady Essid Jaballah.

“The artists’ participation in this project highlights the universal solidarity of women in their legitimate struggle to defend their rights,” explains Bady Essid Jaballah. “This project started from an idea after seeing the suffering of Afghan women under the authority of the Taliban. I would like to thank all the participants, who believe in the justice that we demand. But there is still a long way to go before this vulnerable genre is freed from the clutches of the monster perched on the neck of every girl and woman.”

Since August 2021, the Taliban have regained control of Afghanistan, leaving Afghan women and girls once again faced with the Taliban interpretation of Islamic law. They face many forms of violence, including physical violence, they are deprived of education, work and their human dignity hangs by a thread. Testifying to a radical cultural backward movement, art, poetry, music, and colourful clothing have been banned since the return of the Taliban. 

“Ultimately, this amazing, international collective work represents the resilience of Afghan culture beyond its own borders and serves to remind us that our own freedom is also hanging by a thread,” says Tamara Froud, President of the British Association for Modern Mosaic (BAMM), who has been leading the UK leg of the project. “Every piece of glass added to this extraordinary collaborative undertaking sends a message of hope and support from around the world for Afghan women and girls who find their freedoms being taken from them.” 

Japan started its exhibition in June with exhibitions in Canada, United States, France, the Middle East, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, South America and numerous states of Australia following. 

In the UK, some 140 people from within and around the UK have contributed by making a piece, with some BAMM members running workshops with refugee communities and women’s groups. 

Pictured: Workshops in Stirling, Scotland. Photos courtesy of Rachel Davies.

“It was really beneficial for some of our Afghan evacuees to be able to take part in this wonderful initiative. Some of these women and girls have hardly left their hotels since arriving in the UK, and the way that they enjoyed and participated in the making activity is testament to the power of art to heal people who have been through very recent trauma,” says Dr Nasimi, Director of the Afghanistan & Central Asian Association based in Feltham. “It has been an honour to be part of a project which supports some of the most vulnerable women in the world,” 

The UK scarf was assembled with the help of members from the BAMM Scotland regional group, co-ordinated by BAMM Chair, Rachel Davies, along with support from Creative Stirling. The inaugural exhibition is currently being held in Creative Stirling (44 King Street) daily from 11am – 5pm until Thursday, 1 December. It is hoped that it will tour other locations in the UK in the new year. 

Pictured above: The UK scarf in Stirling with (l-r) Katy Galbraith, Wilma van ver Meyden, Rachel Davies, Tamara Froud, Jane Edwards, Catriona MacMillan, Sara Melville and Judy Reed. Photos courtesy of Rachel Davies.

The project includes 466 Australian artworks. There are displays currently happening in South Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. At the Immigration Museum in Melbourne, Australia, the exhibition is open daily from 10am – 5pm until Thursday, 24 November. Over 70 artists and the Afghan Women’s Organisation of Victoria worked together to create the segments for the Victorian installation. In Brisbane, the display is open daily during the library’s opening hours until 29 January 2023.

Pictured: Top left and middle – exhibition in Immigration Museum in Melbourne, Australia. Photos by Barbara Uhlenbruch.
Top right – exhibition in Brisbane Square Library. Photo by Paul Perry.
Above: The scarf from Tasmania. Photo courtesy of Yvette Hallam.

“The project is a distress call to the United Nations to play its part in saving Afghan women, supporting this noble movement and adopting this project,” adds Bady Essid Jaballah.

For more information, visit the project’s Facebook page

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