Arts project explores impact of pandemic on ethnically diverse communities in Sunderland and South Tyneside

An arts project exploring the impact of the covid pandemic on women from ethnically diverse communities will culminate in a special exhibition.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 10:28 am
Roohia Syed-Ahmed with some of her work (left) and (right) artwork produced by Parvin Abdur for the Srijoni project

The Srijoni project has involved women from diverse communities supporting each other through arts and craft activity.

The project was set-up and run by Sangini, a Black and minority ethnic (BME) led, multicultural women’s organisation.

Sangini’s Project Manager, artist Padma Rao, and Durham-based Islamic artist Roohia Syed-Ahmed worked with the women to explore the notion of culture, cultural entitlement and identity through Arabic calligraphy, contemporary drawing and writing.

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Artwork produced by Parvin Abdur for the Srijoni project

Women from Wearside and South Tyneside attended online workshops run by Padma and Roohia.

Artwork produced will be exhibited at a show at Arts Centre Washington starting on Tuesday, May 18, Covid restrictions permitting.

The exhibition will also be on Sunderland Culture’s website –

Padma said: “Srijoni means creativity in Bangla and the aim of the project was to reduce isolation within BME communities by engaging women with arts and crafts activities. Participation in the arts within these communities is very low, but we’ve had terrific feedback from the women we’ve worked with.

“The activities we introduced them to, particularly the Arabic calligraphy, meant something to them, it was relevant and gave them a voice.

“It was also important to us to raise the profile of Islamic artists and art through the project. These artists and their work can sometimes be invisible within Sunderland’s wider cultural landscape.”

Work from the 20 women who took part in Srijoni, Padma, Roohia and other local BME women artists will be on display at the exhibition.

“There’s been some great work produced during the project. One woman had studied art up to GCSE but had then dropped it, and her talent has shone through. There’s a sense of pride in their artwork being displayed in a venue as prestigious as Arts Centre Washington,” said Padma.

Kai Javed, assistant project manager at Sangini, added: “Another aim of Srijoni was to demystify perceptions of Muslim women for a wider audience. We wanted people to see them as individuals, something other than a stereotypical media image, but as real people. Through the art they’ve produced we hope to help change perceptions, revealing their identities not as hidden Muslim women but people with artistic talents with something to say.”

Sunderland Culture, Sunderland City Council and The Cultural Spring, an arts organisation working to increase arts participation in Sunderland and South Tyneside, funded the project.

Rebecca Ball, Creative Director at Sunderland Culture, said: “Srijoni has been an important project for us to support and I’m looking forward to seeing the artwork produced. Part of our role at Sunderland Culture is to shine a spotlight on art from different cultures – and to encourage and promote artists from different backgrounds, and this is exactly what Srijoni has done.”

She added: “The project has also introduced women to the well-being benefits of arts activities, and hopefully made them feel more connected to the local community.”

Emma Horsman, Project Director at The Cultural Spring, said: “We’re delighted to have been able to support the work of Padma and the Sangini team, and that through the exhibition people will be able to learn more about Islamic culture through art.”

Sangini, which means ‘friend’ in Hindi, works with women from different communities to engage, create, share and build stronger voices by removing barriers they face in their everyday lives.

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