It began in 2011 with Tuesday mornings, off and on, at the Women’s Refugee Group in Hull. Resettled women refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Eritrea and Somalia, came together – their pasts, presents and futures pushed aside for a couple of hours. I watched how a fabric of meaning took shape by hand. Bright reds, canary yellow and cobalt blue dyes livened the grey Northern day. Dye spattered cotton was carefully transformed into something else, something useful. Patches of felt squares became purses. Rolled-up strips of paper from magazines and holiday brochures became bead necklaces.

We worked on a couple of projects. We recorded war and peace stories in images and poetry to remember. It took great courage to share a memory. My mother, Maureen, joined in. She shared her story of being a child during the four years of bombing known as the Hull Blitz.  Now, a week doesn’t go by without me seeing or being among these women. Though the group as it was is no more, we meet often to chat, to celebrate, to cook, to eat, to drink Arabic coffee or tea with Congolese honey, for English cream tea, to dig the allotment, to the sea, to take photos, to look at photos, to dance to youtube, to see art, to create art. At home or at mine, or in a distant gallery somewhere. Resettled Syrian refugee women are joining us.

Being a refugee is a huge part of their history, but not the whole. Like pieces of fabric these women are part of the tapestry that is Hull, a city hoping to be a stronger community of culture. Our ongoing collaboration aims to break more barriers and open more doors to our shared stories, memories, futures, city and world.

We have more work to do … more to share …

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