সুইসুতা Shuishuta (Needle & Thread)
The sewing machines chattered loudly against the backdrop of trees on the University of Victoria campus. Two women labored to sew vibrant sari fabrics as quickly as possible. Soon others joined in to hand-sew and mend the saris, many of which had tears and rips and cutout hearts. The room filled with colorful handloom cotton saris from Bangladesh and people kneeling, sitting, and working together to patch, darn, and stitch together. Two students handed out red thread and needles, silently motioning with eyes and hands to show how to support the collective effort. As we worked together, the sounds of women of Katakhali Village on the Bay of Bengal singing in Bangla filled the room. At times Monica added her own voice, singing a village song about the tides, a Tagore song about working together through a storm, and a few lines from her own poem:
Rokto Lal Rokto Lal Rokto Lal
Red Blood Red Blood Red Blood
from a song during our liberation war,
words etched in our minds
violations of women….
We sew the saris together
with red thread,
linking the woven saris,
linking the words,
the pledges to our planet,
the letters to our sisters across the globe.
In the end, all the participants formed a sari circle. It was a beautiful conclusion to the Gendered Threads of Globalization Conference, working together to mend textiles and teaching each other how to sew.
Statement: Bangladeshi-American feminist artist Monica Jahan Bose creates a performance with hand-woven saris from Bangladesh, exploring questions of labor, gender and industry, including the inequitable gender impacts of the garment industry and climate change. Bose uses the sari — a precolonial 18-foot-long unstitched garment that is always recycled and never discarded — to represent women’s lives and sustainability. Saris are passed on for generations and when worn out, they are layered in three and made into kanthas (thin blankets and baby swaddles). The garment industry and fast fashion may contribute as much as 10% to global climate change. Bose invites viewers to join the performance by mending and sewing with her on a sewing machine or by hand and by writing and drawing on saris personal climate pledges and pledges to cut back on fast fashion. The saris from the performance will be worn and used in future installations and performances.
Performance assistants: Liz Hinshelwood and Chloe Tilbert; participants: Erin Campbell, Carolyn Butler Palmer, Roopa Kanal, Chris Sheaff, Heather Hopkins, Andrew Hinshelwood, Lynn Milgram, Neilesh Bose, Daniel James Cole, Bella Jacobs, Savannah Makarowski, Adalheidur, Judy Frater, Dan Sharp, Melia Belli Bose, Su Yen Chong, Eva Barboula, Minh V.L., Farah Khan and many others
Date of performance: March 12, 2023, Victoria, B.C., Canada
All images and video © 2023 Monica Jahan Bose. Photo credit: Su Yen Chong, Heather Hopkins, Monica Jahan Bose.