An international conference on the theme of Humanitarian Handicrafts was held at the University of Huddersfield, 27 – 28 June 2019 (www.humanitarianhandicrafts.com). The conference explored how and why humanitarian organisations have fostered ‘folk’ arts and crafts.
An international exhibition of humanitarian handicrafts curated by myself and June Hill was presented at the conference, supported by craft-based workshops, interpretation and discussion groups. It took place in the foyer of the Holocaust Learning and Exhibition Centre at the University of Huddersfield. International artist Lise Bjorne Linnert presented her contribution to Nie En More, a fashion collection launched in September 2018, which aims to provide empowerment to local women of Ciudad Juárez in the creation of a product (https://www.nienmore.com/). Bjorne Linnert presented a hands-on workshop and shared her experiences of the negotiation of ethical processes involved in the project as a visual artist living in Norway. Video works by Arthur + Martha and Susie Vickery explore the border territory between moving images and words. Alongside international perspectives we brought examples of humanitarian craft developed by staff and students on the university campus. This included textile BA students craft-based products for Oxfam pop-up exhibitions at UK music festivals, a PhD student who is exploring memory through an engagement with Afghanistan War Rugs, a Business and Economics BA student who is the ambassador for Shika products (made in Tanzania and sold through the SU shop), and Blue Plaques of Intangible Experiences a stitch-based participatory artwork developed by myself and June Hill with transient communities in inner city Bradford. Astonishing historic pieces from the Boer tweed collection and Hudfam steered new meaning and significance to a visuality of humanitarian handicrafts to foreground contemporary works.