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Bangladeshi refuge’s digital collaborations project opens up world to impoverished single mothers

The Sreepur Village, Bangladesh has teamed up with *Sampad Arts in Birmingham to deliver a series of collaborative workshops as part of Transforming Narratives Digital Collaborations Programme. The workshops will take place through Zoom and see female artists from the women’s refuge and Sampad share traditional craft skills to express themselves and their feminine power as well as learn about each other’s backgrounds.

Established in 1989, Sreepur Village is a purpose-built community 50km from Dhaka in rural Bangladesh that provides a refuge and safe haven for poverty-stricken single mothers and their children and equips them with crucial livelihood skills.

The digital collaborations project is entitled “Shakti” which is derived from Sanskrit and translates as feminine power or energy. Shakti symbolises women taking charge of their own lives, and this belief in female empowerment lies at the heart of both Sreepur Village’s activities with impoverished single mothers in Bangladesh and Sampad’s activities with women in inner city Birmingham. 


TN: What made you apply for the Transforming Narratives Digital Collaborations Programme?

SV: Both Sreepur Village and Sampad focus on empowering women through the arts and so we applied to the programme as we were excited about collaborating together and learning from one another.

This digital collaboration will be an amazing experience for the 500 single mothers [we care for] and their children to see the world beyond their own limited circumstances and a glimpse into one another’s worlds, learn new skills and make new connections of support and build their confidence.

TN: What are the aims of your project?

SV: By the end of the Digital Collaboration the women artists and participants in Bangladesh and Birmingham will have achieved the following:

- Enhanced skills in creative crafts making

- Shared skills in traditional Bengali and contemporary urban crafts making

- Knowledge of different cultural and social settings and narratives

- Increased sense of empowerment as they will be able to express themselves through their artistic collaborations

- Increased understanding of each other and their similarities and differences.

- Confidence and encouragement to carry on a creative tradition they learnt and practiced and pass it on to their children and local community.

- Raised profile for the artists, participants and the crafts they will create

TN: How will this fulfil the Transforming Narratives Digital Collaborations Programme brief?

SV: The collaborative craft sessions between the female artists in Bangladesh and in Birmingham will take place over Zoom. At the end of the project we will live stream the “Shakti” project and its development story on Zoom and Facebook Live which will be open to members of the public.

In the event, representatives from Sampad and Sreepur Village will showcase the collaborative crafts that were created by the women in Bangladesh and Birmingham, share personal stories of the women involved in the project and explain how the artistic collaboration has allowed the participants to focus on gaining self-confidence and empowerment. This event will be advertised on social media channels of Sreepur Village and Sampad.

We will also curate a “Shakti” virtual exhibition through Twitter and Instagram to include photos and videos of the women’s craft collaboration telling the story behind the crafts and the personal stories of the women. The collaborative craft sessions and virtual exhibition will draw on themes of female empowerment, heritage, homeland, memories, community, nature, understanding one another’s lives and lived experiences.

TN: What does your project involve and what techniques will you use to make it happen?

SV: Our digital collaboration will be sharing crafts skills to explore existing traditional crafts and motifs practiced by women at Sreepur Village with the urban contemporary designs of crafts artists in Birmingham. They will also look at the source of design inspirations from the environment with which they are placed alongside inherited cultural values and narratives.

Craft makers in Sreepur Village will offer traditional crafts such as Nakshi Kantha, a traditional form of quilt embroidery from old saris. It involves small running stitches to strengthen often recycled fabric, then embroideries to cover tears in the fabric. The women will also share skills in bamboo weaving, jute crafts, handmade paper, hair accessories and bags from sari material, and candle-making. 

Artists from Sampad will introduce new forms of contemporary crafts such as paper folding, mirror work, mehndi designs as gift cards and wall hangings, contemporary jewellery designs and presentation skills. 


* For the past 30 years Sampad Arts’ mission has been to connect people and communities with South Asian and British Asian arts and heritage and to play a cutting-edge role in the creative economy.

As a partner of the Transforming Narratives project it is currently running the My City My Home creative writing competition with a focus on women from Birmingham, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The closing date for entries is 30 December 2020.

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