Out of the kitchen,
jars, bowls and utensils...
This exhibition was organized in cooperation between the associations Textile-Résonance (FR) and the DAI.
Don’t hesitate to page through the catalogue of the exhibition, in full-screen mode.
Use the “zoom” function to see the 3 stages of every work:
1. the “raw”, unfinished version created by a European woman.
2. the embroidered “answer” of the Afghan embroiderer.
3. the final work, finished by the European after receiving her embellished piece back from Afghanistan.
The exhibitions presented in Europe over the past ten years by Pascale Goldenberg and the D.A.I. e.V. have always shown pieces in which European men and women have worked on the basis of one or more textile squares which had previously been embroidered by Afghans. ‘Kitchen corner, beside the utensils’ is therefore a ‘first’!
As though magnetised by these ‘squares of grace’, these punctuation marks in our multiple approaches towards (establishing) a contemporary textile art, I have, like many Europeans, attentively followed the evolution of the women embroiderers of Laghmani with astonishment mixed with an unceasing sense of wonder! From being simply a ‘consumer’ of these small embroidered surfaces which come and present us, through what might be termed echo work, with that certain ‘something’ which opens up creative possibilities … I began to dream of creative work for four hands with an (as yet) unknown friend living to the north of Kabul. To make this happen, it would be necessary to convince Pascale, the orchestral conductor of the project since its inception that it might be possible to establish a partnership with the Textile Resonance association which I have been driving since 2005.
For this new challenge, we have had to find a common basis of understanding since the interpretation of an abstract theme would have doomed the project to failure. Of necessity, the Europeans had to sketch out to the Afghans tangible, easy-to-visualize proposals, which would allow them to harness an idea, a foreign concept (certainly foreign to the women involved) so that they could use it to re-engage in their individual development. The theme of the kitchen and its utensils seemed to us to be most appropriate by virtue of its references to our shared artistic history. Each woman would find in it a freedom of expression with the value of universality. This exhibition, where European and Afghan women have had to find ‘the right relationship’, without dogma, with authenticity and emotion, has given birth to as many ways of expressing oneself as it has artists.
I would like to express here to Pascale my profound recognition of herself, my partner and constant friend, who accepted the project with the greatest possible generosity and insight, knowing as she did the kind of life led by Afghan women and the difficulties they experience. I would also like to thank the 200 women participants, European artists and Afghan embroiderers alike, who rose to the challenge of giving life to this wonderful adventure!
When, in November 2011, Joëlle Jan-Gagneux presented me with her concept, in which she proposed starting work in Europe in order then to hand it over to Afghan embroiderers, so that they could use it to follow through the creative work which had been started – the opposite approach to that normally considered ‘good practice’ –, I recognized the genius of this idea. Caution urged me nonetheless to proceed gently, as with everything which takes place in Afghanistan. During my ten years of adventures in Afghan villages, the evolution in the embroidery executed there has been undeniable. However, it is impossible not to take into consideration the traditional realities faced by the Afghan woman in the countryside who has no opportunity either to make decisions about anything herself, or even to have a choice. Amidst this environment, the creative process of embroidery seems like an undreamed-of and exotic option; in those surroundings, they can make good use of a great deal of freedom, although it then becomes necessary to have the means of knowing how to seize the opportunity. The realization phase on site, which I attended in October 2013, made the differences between us more or less blatantly visible; few in number were those who knew spontaneously how to get the sense of the ‘message’, that is to say to ‘read’ and then ‘interpret’ the layout of the motifs created by the European women. So, when it came to the other embroiders, there was a need to make comments: What do you see on the surface? What is it used for? And how is that done in Afghanistan? What kind of complementary development might be possible? And so, what should you embroider, and where, on this space, for a surface equating to two classical embroidered squares? From these verbal exchanges, there were, some days later, new developments in embroidery, satisfying in some instances, sometimes surprising, not to say puzzling, in others; the gulf between our cultures was gaping, a reality to be accepted. And yet I returned from Afghanistan untroubled about the results of this difficult ‘mission’, even if the steps in which it had unfolded in the field had sometimes made me prey to doubts.
Heartfelt thanks go to the European participants who also carried out this same work of intellectual reflection so as to enter into the culture of the ‘other person’, and who launched themselves confidently into this adventure together with us.