The British Sari

Sari for Green Street, Newham, London E.17A photograph of a sari for Green Street, London E 17, by Helen Scalway . The drawings for the motif can be seen in the previous post.

Throughout 2007 I was involved as an artist in a project called The British Sari Story, run by the arts consultancy Bridging Arts, and in which the V&A was also a partner.

The British Sari Story project consisted of a UK-wide competition and various workshops exploring sari patterns as often intensely regional, local markers of cultural memory, of cultural identity. Each sari design entered for the competition constituted a space where different identities were in play. The competition culminated in an exhibition which will tour the UK throughout 2008.

The project was designed to encourage the idea that identity may be mapped onto several territories simultaneously. I have been thinking how I might explore this idea through drawing, so that by letting encounters occur between the different kinds of ornament which we find in close proximity in the city, we might see the urban fabric itself as a weaving of varied identities and meanings.

Iâ??m off to India in three daysâ?? time to visit places where textiles are made. Iâ??m hoping, by making this month-long journey, to understand more about the textiles which come from South Asia to Britain. When South Asian textiles arrive in retail outlets in Britain, to be used as apparel or in peoplesâ?? homes, what different worlds are in close proximity? Are they so entirely different? Doubtless Iâ??ll find out.