“Shelter” Workshop with Women Refugees
On July 12, 2018 from 6-9 pm we held a tea gathering and sari making workshop for refugee women in Athens at the site of the Footprint-Apotipoma exhibition at Serafio Innovation Center. The program was organized and curated by Angeliki Grammatikopoulou, who works with refugees for the City of Athens. I was truly moved to be able to meet refugee women from the Congo, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Iran, and to bring them such delight in working together on a sari. Their adorable children were also enchanted with the installation and the wood block printing. We started with a wonderful tea party that included tea, coffee, fresh orange juice, and delicious Greek pastries and sandwiches. We gathered inside the Shelter or floating sari house, taking off our shoes to sit on the kantha saris made by immigrant Bangladeshi women from Brooklyn. I shared my own story of migration and being a refugee in India during the Bangladesh liberation war. I also told the women about the Storytelling with Saris project and the story of Noor Sehera who rebuilt her home after successive cyclones and has learned to read and become a tailor. The women shared brief stories of where they came from and how long they have been in Athens. We did not delve too much into their stories, as most of them have been traumatized by events that led them to flee their countries. Interpreters were provided for Greek, Arabic, Farsi, and French. All of the women and their families were invited to join me in creating a feminist sari with woodblock printing, hand drawing and writing, expressing their own stories. The sari with hot pink border was covered in writing in many languages.
Workshop coordinator and curator: Angeliki Grammatikopoulou