Beautiful, slow activism
“Craftivists believe that small, significant creative acts can influence change and promote the curiosity that other forms of activism may not.”
A few days ago I took part in a workshop at Impact Hub Birmingham which turned what I know and think about activism on its head. I have previously read a little about craftivism and thought it was cool. I also thought it was something done by people who are actually good at sewing and things (i.e. not me).
What I learned in hour of doing craftivism is that it means letting your mind spend time doing a different kind of thinking, opening your heart wide, experiencing all kinds of emotion, and creating something beautiful.
We were invited to choose sections of fabric and cut out petals of different sizes, layering them to create something simple yet (I think) rather beautiful.
My limited sewing skills weren’t a barrier to creating this, thanks to Jane’s step by step guidance. So far, so crafty. How is this activism?
My flower was made in memory of Tema Kombe, who was found hanged in a hospital toilet.
He was seeking asylum in the UK and had been detained under the Mental Health Act.
For the whole hour or so that I was making my flower I was thinking about Tema Kombe, and thinking about the fact that thousands of people die during the process of seeking asylum in the UK. People who are fleeing from persecution, war and other awful things.
The reason I was thinking properly about this was partly because at the beginning of the workshop we were given some pages from a ‘Roll Call of Death’; short biographies of people who have died while seeking asylum here. We were asked to choose one to make a flower for. I couldn’t bear to read about more than a couple of the people on the list. The swell of sadness and anger was too much.
Another reason I was thinking properly about Tema Kombe and the plight of asylum seekers was because the act of making the flower helped my brain to get on with thinking, and experiencing emotion. It seemed to help me to pay attention to both a person and the whole of the world, and experience all sorts of feelings and pay attention to them too. I contrasted this with the experience of writing letters in repsonse to Amnesty International appeals. The act of writing is quite different to making. (Or maybe I’ve been going about the letter writing thing all wrong.) Jane understood this and remarked that craftivism is slow activism. I think I’m beginning to understand what that means.
The flowers we made in the workshop have been pinned on this wreath which is in memory of people who have died while seeking asylum in the UK, or trying to get here. Everyone who has made a flower has attached a parcel tag which they have written on. It is incredibly overwhelming reading these messages, a number of them written by children.
There was so much more I learned in the workshop. I’m sure I’ll write more about craftivism. And in the meantime I’m going along to the Birmingham Craftivists monthly session on Thursday.