Making Marks: Australia to Afghanistan – Counihan Gallery

In News February 17, 2021

Rosalind Atkins and Heather Shimmen have been involved in a long-distance international arts exchange project between a group of twenty women artists in Australia, and forty-three Afghan women in Kabul.

Making Marks: Australia to Afghanistan, led by artist Gali Weiss, is a participatory, long-distance international art exchange between women artists in Australia, and Afghan women who are literacy students at the Organisation of Promoting Afghan Women’s Capabilities (OPAWC) Vocational Centre in Kabul. The exchange was documented in the form of a book last year, and is now being exhibited at Counihan Gallery in Brunswick, curated by Sharon Plummer.

The handkerchief project uses an object of the everyday as a vehicle for image-text exchange to create a meeting place and point of connection for two diverse communities of women.

The objective of the project was to utilise artistic practice to support women in Afghanistan in their quest to acquire and use literacy skills. The Australian women artists created imagery in line with their artistic practice, on individual handkerchiefs. These handkerchief ‘pages’ were delivered to the Vocational Centre, with an offer to Afghan women to relate to the imagery by writing directly on, over or around the imagery in any medium.

Many of the ‘first marks’ made by the Australian artists on these handkerchiefs reflect their relationship with, and connection to place, nature and history. These themes are also reflected in the ‘second marks’ made by the Afghan women whose relationship with, and connection to their place and their history, resonates through each stitch and informs their hopes and ambitions articulated in thread. As a result, we see and hear their voices.

43 handkerchiefs out of the 60 returned to Australia, marked in embroidered text. The 17 handkerchiefs that did not return are on display as facsimiles that were photographed before being sent to Kabul. The unknown fate of these 17 pieces reflects the hardship and fragility of life in a war zone.

The exhibition is current at Counihan Gallery until 21 March 2021. For more information, click here.

Image above: Rosalind Atkins and Fatona  I want to become a journalist  2018  etching and embroidery thread  26 x 25 cm (detail)

Image above: Making Marks: Australia to Afghanistan publication (detail)

 Image above: Heather Shimmen and Zakia Arghandiwal  My wish is for peace in my country  2018  linocut, stencil, stitching, ink stain, solvent transfer and embroidery thread  43 x 42 cm