The Routes We Thread

Arpita Shah and Paria Goodarzi


15 April - 14 May 2017

Many Studios invited Iranian textile artist Paria Goodarzi and Indian photographer Arpita Shah to take part in an 8-week residency at The Gallow Gate, collaborating for the first time to produce new work in response to healing, renewal and re-birth.

The artists worked with a group of twelve women to explore Scotland's complex history with Iran, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Jamaica, Guyana and Eritrea. The artists led a series of workshops in March, exchanging stories and skills in photography and embroidery, to trace mixed heritage and shared experiences of women living in Scotland. Using traditional dress as primary reference, all twelve women created layered visualisations of their lived experiences of either moving to Scotland from outside the UK, or their experience of growing up in Scotland with mixed heritage. These embroidered photographs explore the complex layers of identity, symbolising the cultural, political and personal threads we carry around with us.

Goodarzi and Shah were invited to take part in a joint residency partly for the shared themes explored in both artists work, including cultural motif, the notion of home and belonging and the experience of displacement and migration of individuals around the world. Both Goodarzi and Shah's work fixates on dress as a visual tool for cultural and traditional storytelling and as an expression of individuality and identity. The artists choice to root each women's story with an item of clothing to demonstrate the multiplicity of culture in Scotland today.

In the second half of their residency, Goodarzi and Shah began to experiment with the images created during the workshops, using light, materiality and transparency to marry the ten works and to map the unique journeys within a gallery context. In developing new work, the artists considered the unconventionality of the space, focusing on the large shop front windows on the street-facing wall. In this presentation, the windows have been used to exhibit the women’s shared experiences of not being bound to one place or the other, but rather being in a transitional state of ‘in-between’, neither here or there.

The large front windows host representations of three photographs taken during the workshops, presented alongside an installation of ten original artworks, re-produced and re-imagined by Goodarzi and Shah. This work cavorts and carouses above the gallery floor, each object seemingly in isolation, but threaded to an affixed point on ceiling. These threads map the histories and complex identities of the artists and the women they have collaborated with, symbolising the importance of one's cultural roots.

Scotland is home to so many diverse individuals and communities, all with really unique stories that lead them here. The Routes We Thread celebrates these journeys but also looks at the complexities inherent in the meaning of home for individuals with scattered histories and identities. T

“Women of diaspora always feel divided, a part of us always takes us back to our roots” 
Nahrumah Huq

The project was funded by Heritage Lottery Fund as part of Stories, Stones and Bones programme. The publication was kindly sponsored by Newspaper Club.