Karachi Biennale19

26th October-12th November 2019



Forest 2019

Embroidery on cloth 1317cm x 411cm


Alice Kettle’s project Thread Bearing Witness was launched in 2017 www.threadbearingwitness.com. This major project looks at issues of displacement and cultural movement using textiles and specifically stitch as a common language. The project included a public participation strand called Stitch a Tree project which invited small stitched contributions from individuals, groups and refugee communities to create a collective artwork which demonstrated solidarity and resilience. The tree acts as a creative metaphor, inviting participants to consider their lives, mapped onto the tree: roots representing cultural and social histories; branches representing sustainable futures. The trees reinforce our relationship with the environment and collectively as a forest represent the positive nature of individuality and diversity as an attribute of social cohesion.

The original idea for the Stitch a Tree project came from the Refugee Resilience Collective, who worked with refugee children in Dunkirk refugee camp in April 2017 and used the ‘Tree of Life’ – to begin conversations with the children about strength and resilience.

For Karachi Biennale19, Stitch a Tree creates a new Forest with the expert embroiderers of the region. Embroidery is one of the important practices undertaken by women. The new work celebrates the extraordinary skills of various groups, the distinct styles and stitches of indigenous embroidery. The work valorizes and brings together in one artwork the voice of women embroiderers in Karachi. The work is made by them, reflecting the distinct identity of Pakistani embroidery and the importance of these women’s contribution to cultural, economic and social life. In the Forest we come together as one community, using stitch to unify us in a shared language of making.