HERE/THERE: To be a woman (Part II)

participatory projects

HERE/THERE: To be a woman was commissioned by Dr Emma Williamson at the University of Bristol as part of a research project into gender-based violence and displacement. The collaboration between artist Ellie Shipman and author and women's rights journalist Sian Norris consisted of four creative workshops with a group of women who have experienced displacement mainly from Iraqi Kurdistan, resulting in the design of two fabrics and creation of two chairs, a project newspaper and piece of short fiction. 

HERE / THERE: To be a woman revealed the tense in-between space the women, and many others, are living within. Moving from one patriarchy to another, existing in a temporary interim, the perception of HERE shifting in lived reality, the memory of THERE nostalgic under the smell of cloves. Family traditions are remembered and plump figs reached out for, only to find them dry, imported, drawn in two dimensions and black and white. 

This project explored this '/' slash: the interim. The workshops attempted to create and reclaim an in-between space where we are all welcome, where we can be women together, sharing stories, triumphs and tribulations, laughter and tears. 

We made this space a place. A place where HERE and THERE exist concurrently. Where we explored the complexities of displacement, cultural identity, motherhood, careers, creativity, politics and war through poetry, script-writing, embroidery and mark-making. 

The fabric for the HERE chair and THERE cushions were inspired by and feature the women's stories, poetry and illustrations. These fabrics were digitally printed and made into cushions for a Western stick-back sofa and a Middle Eastern-inspired floor cushion set. 

The two HERE and THERE chairs are a pair, one alone without the other, both existing in time and space together. A physical, functional object to comfort, to nurture, to be used, to work hard, to be worn down, to be repaired, to hold a narrative, to be part of life. The chairs embody a physical place, a place to sit, a place to read, to reflect - a place to be.


An exhibition is planned for later this year in Bristol and potentially in Kurdistan. Keep in touch to find out more and see the workshops and further background to the project here