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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA

Shilpo Shikka by Rahela Khan - a thought-provoking show

Shilpo Shikka by artist Rahela Khan - a thought-provoking show that encompasses a whole body of artwork

By Steve Cooke

One of this column’s fundamental aims is the celebrate and bring wider attention to our wonderful creative community.

Rahela Khan is an artist who fully deserves such recognition.

Shilpo Shikka is her year-long practise-based PhD Art research project, presented as an exhibition at Gallery Frank, Ebor Studio, Littleborough until 05 August 2022. The thought-provoking show encompasses a whole body of artwork research.

Shilpo Shikka is an intricate project, emphasising the visuals of Rahels’s own family and other migrant communities within the northern regions of Greater Manchester and Lancashire. She believes representation is important.

Documenting hidden narratives and invisible identities are also imperative. Rahela utilises on her insider knowledge for communities of South Asian descent and predominantly practice the Islamic faith in the UK to depict an awareness of Islamic art. She looks at the use of textiles as a pastime before migrating from the Indian sub-continent to the northern towns of Oldham and Rochdale to take up employment. From around the 1950's onwards the textile mills of the north offered less skill-dependent job opportunities for South Asian migrants at the time. She focuses on the stark differences of working with textiles in the UK, most working long hours from home and the cotton mills, isolated from their communities.

Rahela deals with her own lived experience of emotional intimacy and distance with her late parents, concepts such as social histories of folks in the northwest of England, having been marginalised and misrepresented. She focuses on how cultural memory is continued, investigating ideas around cultural and faith traditions, what ‘home’ means, otherness and belonging, property and migration, documenting these hidden narratives and invisible identities.

She interrogates the inclusion aspect for social cohesion, examining whether things have improved for her community within the UK art sector over the last few decades. Rahela deals with the important and often overlooked contribution of Muslim women to culture and the arts in contemporary Britain, contesting the British media’s misconceptions of marginalisation, subjugation, and oppression.

Created in response to her family’s oral and visual archives held intimately within her family’s memories and experiences.

Rahela is an interdisciplinary artist, employing printmaking techniques, fibre arts and wood. She uses objects such as sewing machines, family heirlooms, evoking feelings of nostalgia and collective contribution of South Asian community in the northwest of UK.

Free and on until 05th August at Ebor Studio and Gallery Frank, William Street, Littleborough, OL15 8JP

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