‘It Is Not a Fiction’ is an ongoing participatory project I have started in Manoeuvre (social creative work vzw) with women who migrated to Belgium with whom I worked simultaneously on a piece of patchwork for six months. The group members were asked to bring their personal photos to the piece of patchwork which was an engagement of personal photos and their handy craft skills in an artistic representation. There has been no border made for this patchwork, therefore, it is expected to be extended in different cities and countries by adding migrated and refuges’ personal photos on an extending piece of patchwork. The photos are from their personal lives both in their homeland and the country they have migrated to including both their private and public lives. It re-images the images based on their archived memories (personal photos) by applying their “handicraft” skill as an artistic medium to share their stories from different periods of their lives. In this project, ethnography is used as a process of transformation (by using personal photos combined with embroidery), giving a voice to people living in Diaspora. In this regard, I will address the questions of, How can social limitation, boundary or security make migrated women build up more distant or closer relation with the new community (to feel at home)? What are the positions and potential roles of an artist in participatory work with people? What is the role of the participants in the ‘participatory art’ of exchange and collaboration: do they have agency or co-share power with the artist (see Clifford and Markus 1986, Foster 1995)?
To do this project I learned the patchwork from two quilt maker which I transfer to the participant as well. This patchwork is called Log Cabin which influenced by first generation of house architecture. It must have provided an emotional shelter as well as a center for the family life, a touch of civilization in the wilderness and a place to call home. The log cabin offered warmth and security in an inhospitable environment. The stripes in patchwork represent the logs and the resourcefulness of the pioneer in meeting his needs with what materials were available to its maker. The center square symbolizes the heart of the home (which I replace the photos of participants instead of it). Each color in the center convey a certain meaning for instance a red center represent chimney, the source of warmth and sustenance or a yellow center symbolizing lantern placed in the window to guide the men folk safely home or to welcome the weary traveler. The warmth and light of chimney or lantern were central to security and a sense of home. Appropriately, the central square provides the base upon which the Log Cabin block is built. Strips or ‘logs’ of the same width, but gradually increasing length, surround the chimney block in concentric rings. The logs on two sides of the block are light in color; on the other side, the logs are dark.
The final touch of the project was embroidery on photos to emphasize a free intervention of participants on the result. The heart of the patchwork (the photos), together with the patchwork margins are a metaphorical gesture to bridge the indoors and outdoors, between migrant cultural background and receiving culture. The starting point of the project, its process, results and experience, are the subject of reflection.
‘It Is Not a Fiction’ is a vehicle that bridges the private and the public scene, traditional views on ‘craft’ and contemporary views on ’art’. At the same time its aim is, giving people and minority groups the ability to express themselves and make them more visibility in a bigger society. Through this project people with different backgrounds, races and nationalities are brought together. By showing their personal albums they share their feelings about time, space and environment. Sharing images and knowledge blurs the boundary between their private and public lives.