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Silk River

July 15, 2017 - September 30, 2017

In 2017, the 70th anniversary of India’s independence from Britain, Kinetika, an arts organisation based in Purfleet, undertook a project to highlight the history of the silk trade routes from India to London, with the Thames river channel being a key route. They invited 10 towns situated along the river Thames to take part in this project, Dartford being one of these.

Each town was ‘twinned’ with a corresponding town in India – Dartford’s twin town was Howrah. The aim of the project was to create a set of large (6m long) banners – painted with wax, and made of silk (referencing the silk trade). These banners were walked through the town at an event in September of the same year. Kinetika walked through each town involved in the project and so linked the independent events in each town to create one larger overall event.

Key artists from Dartford were invited to come along to two workshops to produce sketch designs to be incorporated into the final banners. These sketches were then silk printed through What If Gallery workshops and including work by DAN artists, to produce a 6m long silk Batik banner to represent Dartford, with the help of Kinetika, the arts organisation who were running the project.

As part of the background learning, we had a visit from some Indian artists. They gave us a demonstration of a traditional folk art form – singing scrolls. The artists paint a scroll of paper with images depicting a story or event. They then compose a song to accompany the scroll, and as the song and story progresses, the scroll is unravelled vertically to reveal the next stage of the story. It was a beautiful experience to watch these artworks in action; part visual art, part music, part performance art, they are incredibly engaging and moving.

In conjunction with the project, we were lucky enough to host a group of students and Alison Medd, Director of Learning, Creative Arts & Performance, from Dartford Science and Technology College at an art workshop as part of their annual Community Day. The workshop took place at the What If Gallery, and its aim was to produce a series of Indian scroll artworks, to be used as part of the Silk River project. We intended to explore the creative process and production of a traditional Indian artform – whereby an aesthetic narrative is painted onto canvas scrolls, and a song composed to accompany the visual element. The scroll is ‘performed’ by unravelling the physical artwork as the song is sung and the story explained.

Our aim for the community day workshop was for the students from DSTC to create some of these types of artworks in groups composed of art and music students. They were asked to produce some works which could link with the final walk celebrations when the silk banners were paraded through the town. We hope that through the workshop the girls became aware of an important artistic tradition which is embedded in the Indian culture with which we had been linked through this project, encompassing the overall aim of engaging local people and particularly up and coming artists.


July 15, 2017
September 30, 2017
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