Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Yesterday was my second session at Newlands Community Centre for their Arabic Women's Quilt Project. When we met last week, the women agreed to bring along some items which they had brought to Australia from their homeland. I didn't quite know what to expect. Note to self: always expect the unexpected!

W had brought several parcels all wrapped up in plastic bags. This came out of one of them.Out of another bag came a portable record player and an album of perfectly preserved 45 rpm singles. Before I knew what was happening, the room was filled with music and one by one the women began to clap and dance and snap their fingers. All this in and around and between the sewing machines, the mending and the cutting of fabric.

For a while I managed to hide behind my camera, capturing the movement. I was amazed at how women like those I see in the street: covered, restrained, careful; started to show their warmth and delight--in their own space, with their own music. All of a sudden I was the awkward stranger. Those who know me best will be able to imagine how strange and how awkward I felt when I was energetically invited to join in: trying to overcome my personal "freeze" to join in the shake and shimmy.

We have only a few more sessions together before the group takes a month break for Ramadan. My challenge is to come up with a design that will allow the group to put something of themselves into a quilt which will be in public view for their community and the wider community for years to come. Just now my awareness of my own limitations is heightened, as is my awareness of the beauty and strength of what I'm trying to help to capture and display.

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