An international conference on the theme of Humanitarian Handicrafts was held at the University of Huddersfield, 27 – 28 June 2019. This conference was co-hosted by the History Department and the Textiles Department at the University of Huddersfield, in a promising new collaboration. It was also supported by the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, Manchester, and the History Department at Leeds Beckett.

This conference explored how and why humanitarian organisations have fostered ‘folk’ arts and crafts. In doing so it spotlighted the aesthetics as well as ethics of humanitarians’ material culture.

An international exhibition was presented at the conference, supported by craft-based workshops, interpretation and discussion groups that I co-curated with June Hill. International artist Lise Bjorne Linnert presented her contribution to Nie En More, a fashion collection launched in September 2018, which aims to provide empowerment to local women of Ciudad Juárez in the creation of a product ( Bjorne Linnert also presented a hands-on workshop and shared her experiences of the negotiation of ethical processes involved in the project as a visual artist living in Norway. Some works question our ideas about textiles to alter the way that we engage emotionally with different circumstances, particularly during periods of conflict and displacement. Others offer alternatives to poverty, substituting a beleaguered relationship to the status quo towards reassembled structures of peoples’ lives through creative craft-based enterprise. Video works by Arthur + Martha and Susie Vickery explore the border territory between moving images and words, and how a reading of cloth can be simultaneously poetic, playful and political. Alongside international perspectives we brought examples of humanitarian craft developed by staff and students on the university campus. This included textile BA students craft-based products for Oxfam pop-up exhibitions at UK music festivals, a PhD student who is exploring memory through an engagement with Afghanistan War Rugs, a Business and Economics BA student who is the ambassador for Shika products (made in Tanzania and sold through the SU shop), and Blue Plaques of Intangible Experiences a stitch-based participatory artwork developed with transient communities in inner city Bradford, also co-created June Hill. Astonishing historic pieces from the Boer tweed collection and Hudfam steered new meaning and significance to a visuality of humanitarian handicrafts to foreground contemporary works.
Period27 Jun 20194 Jul 2019
Event typeWorkshop
LocationHuddersfield, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational