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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Stitching Solidarity: Belonging as a Muslim in the United States

  • Author(s): Chowdhury, Shimul Fatema
  • Advisor(s): Daniel, Sharon
  • et al.

This thesis presents collaborative and participatory craft-making as catalysts for dialogue regarding the surging Islamophobia after events such as the tragedy on September 11th and the 2016 presidential election.

Inspired by the South Asian tradition of kanthas, I created a series of quilts out of my mother’s saris. The imagery embroidered and sewn onto the kanthas was informed by interviews with 11 Muslim participants who live in the United States. Each embroidered segment was based on an image that the participant suggested, which symbolically represented their strained sense of belonging based on their religious or cultural association with Islam. Five kanthas were sewn together to form a large tent; hanging, they created an enclosed space which could be entered. The audience was invited to enter the space and stitch or draw their own notions of how a “sense of belonging” could potentially be identified.

The combined processes of cooperative making, textile craft, participatory installation, and involved dialogue in Stitching Solidarity attempt to demonstrate how this participatory art practice can record a history of lived experience, build and define community, and contribute to healing.

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