The Notice Board – Madhu Manipatruni

This months exhibition [July 15- Aug 15th] is titled: Hands of Otherness and features Madhu Manipatruni work. She is showing a scaled photo of a quilted panel and a hand painted flag.

Madhu says: Kantha is embroidery quilting usually made to reuse, repurpose cloth. Kantha is rooted in India and created by women as a communal activity. Sheesha work, the embedding of mirrors, is traditional in Indian embroidery too. In this instance, the cloth [of both the flag and stitched piece], unbleached handloom cotton arrived from India. This also signifies my journey. Having lost my father recently, I started to sew, to self soothe and recover from the loss. This handloom cloth is of significance within our family and traditions.

The handprint relates to creating a home and positive new beginnings. It also references the tribal art made by women in India; they handprint on houses, temples and objects to ensure well-being of family and their belongings. Here the hand prints signify, being here and now, making a new home in England. The patterned embroidery on the hands alludes to henna patterns. Henna/Mehandi is a ceremonial design made on hands of brides in South Asian cultures. On the quilt these depict the stories of women, how they or their mothers arrived in the UK as partners of the economic migrants. They stand for the shared experiences of loss, pain, loneliness and invisibility. These experiences are inherited, passed down the generations through storytelling. Here they are lines, colours and stitches.

The Notice Board curates its exhibitions to a theme: The Lands of the Free? For this show we may wonder if this relates to Madhu’s act of stitching to cope or the ambitions of South Asian citizens during the act of migration? It may also reference the spaces created when women gather to share and support one another or maybe it’s quilt itself that enables us to imagine cultures and geographies different to our own? Maybe it’s all of them and now The Notice Board invites you to decide for yourself.