My highlight of 2018 was undoubtably creating ‘Making of a South Asian Wedding’, art installation commissioned by the National Festival of Making in Blackburn.
A week before the nation gathered for the Royal Wedding, a vibrant celebration of South Asian marriage culture was planned as part of The National Festival of Making, which returned to Lancashire from Sat 12 – Sun 13 May 2018. The sights, sounds, tastes and colourful making traditions of a South Asian wedding were recreated within the interactive art installation for all to enjoy – young and old.
Earlier this year, I spent an intense period getting to know local people and business owners in Blackburn. Not being from Blackburn myself, I searched high and low for exceptional South Asian homemakers who brought their traditional skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to the ‘The Making of a South Asian Wedding’ set in the 1980s.
Back in the 1980s, weddings were very much a family affair. Money was often tight so everyone got involved during different stages and the numerous wedding ceremonies (Asian weddings are long!). Making food and sweet gifts was largely done at home by relatives and friends. It was a joyous time for everyone to get together and put their skills to practical use while being sociable. Nowadays, anything can be readily purchased and such get togethers to 'make' are largely a thing of the past.
I wanted to take people back in time with this piece of work. It celebrated South Asian heritage, but also provided an insight into our traditions and customs for those audiences who have not engaged with South Asian communities before.
At the festival, we celebrated specialist skills and knowledge of local South Asian communities who made / demonstrated samosas, fresh flower garlands, bridal make-up, henna, cake decorating and wrapping of traditional wedding favours. And of course, no celebration is complete without a jolly good dance.
The project was planned as part of the innovative arts project The Art In Manufacturing, and continuing themes developed in ‘Front Room Factories’, two hugely successful elements of the festival in 2017.
From the outset, I aimed to cross cultural traditions, time and family generations and recreated the making of a 1980s South Asian wedding in Blackburn town centre. It was important to put a very culturally specific art installation into a public space such as the Blackburn Market because I wanted everyone to get involved. It was intended to spark curiosity, get involved, to converse and explore an authentic living room space of a South Asian family in the 1980s.
This was one of the most rewarding installations I have created to date and it was certainly one of the most enjoyable too. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with incredibly talented and humble home-makers. Some were self taught and others continued the making traditions handed down by older relatives or friends.
The Making Of A South Asian Wedding was about celebration, getting people together through shared experiences and importantly facilitating a cultural exchange through making. Judging by our audiences, I think we achieved this.
The people I met on this journey were so warm, helpful and generous and so I have adopted Blackburn as my second home. I even got invited to attend local weddings, it was so much fun! I made some wonderful new friendships in 2018 and am hoping to return to make even more work which will bring communities together to experience what we share in common rather than what separates us in these troubling and uncertain times.
I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped make this project a success. There are too many people to list individually which only highlights how much of a collaborate project this was in its creation and delivery.
It was a huge pleasure working with and for Deco Publique and Hemingway Design at the National Festival of Making 2018.
The National Festival of Making is one of the most important and relevant festivals in the UK right now. Planned with precision by a highly accomplished and talented team who want to create change in society. An ethos which chimes closely with my own vision for the future in 2019 and beyond.
Happy new year to you all and keep on making in 2019.