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* confidential - do not distribute *

Stitches

Approaching coastal conflicts through arts and crafts 

Photo by Sara Kollberg

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RIPPLES OF CHANGE

In Moheshkhali Island, a district of Cox's Bazar in south of Bangladesh, sand from nearby shore is being removed from seabed and used to fill up the protection walls of a new energy plant project. 

The ripple of change manifest within people's lives and is often silent and invisible.

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Stitching as a contemplative practice

The power of stitching extends beyond its functionality, in the right setting it can foster a space of contemplation, and act as a reflective outlet that mirrors and mediates one’s social, environmental and psychological situation. Crafting by hand has the potential to trigger a sort of meditative state that engages both body and soul through the repetitive motion of stitching. 

In addition, the rootedness of stitching in traditional craft making in many cultures, (with Bengali heritage following suit) creates an incredible temporal space in which contemporary stitching places itself equally in the present while acknowledging the host of embroidered stories and practices in the past. In this way stitching can become a powerful tool of transformation which builds resilience through remembrance and reflexivity, bringing stories of resilience out from the domestic into a larger political context, and thus, become a tool of advocacy.

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The workshop

The workshop, facilitated by Bangladeshi artist and designer Mahenaz Chowdhury, was designed as a safe space for 20 women from the community of Moheshkhali Ward 9, who have been facing an increasing amount of challenges after their re-location due to power-plant development project. The workshop focuses on generating an atmosphere that encourages sharing of stories – of loss but also of resilience. 

We invited them to a week-long gathering to develop their stitching skills and in the process create a “library of patches” through which they display and discuss their stories of displacement among themselves, and possibly with a wider audience. 

We are exploring a collaboration with Goethe Institute in Dhaka for an exhibition with the work created.

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MENDING EXERCISE

1. Guided visualization where participants contemplate conflicts that need 

reconciliation

2. Each participant selects a piece of fabric and makes a few rips in the patch. 

3. In pairs, participants exchange the ripped fabrics, and each one mends through stitching the fabric of the other freely.

4. Exchange back and discuss. What thoughts and feelings came up while stitching? What thoughts and feelings emerge when I see my patch mended? 

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Workshop participants, Moheshkhali, March 2022

ABOUT THE PROJECT

What do communities do to cope and transform conflicts? In collaboration with Belmont Forum project NoCrises, we are designing a participatory arts process to engage with practices of conflict reconciliation in multiple countries. In collaboration with local artists and communities.