Beginnings – Ali Pretty and India
I hope this journey can be for you, as inspirational as it is for me, let me share with you how it began.
‘If you want to change the world, Ali,’ Habib Tanvir, director of the Naya Theatre, told me one evening, ‘You need to be an artist.’
That’s exactly what I wanted to do.
We were in India. 1985. I was sewing saris together making a silk river for his show that opened the next day.
‘If you want to learn about art and politics,’ he continued. ‘Come with me to Kolkata.’
So I did.
I was travelling with British community artist Elizabeth Lynch who inspired me to put my ideas into practice when I got back, connecting me to UK participatory arts companies. Continuing to explore diverse art forms I followed the Asian diaspora to Trinidad, later becoming a carnival designer. Settling in London I learnt to paint silk, my artistic career took off and I founded Kinetika in 1997.
In 2003, invited by The British Deputy High Commission, I returned to Kolkata. Working in 8 schools, with 250 dancers and 100 folk artists we brought home the story of the indentured Indians leading our thousand-strong carnival procession, Din Shuru, through the heart of the city.
Recently I have devised a different model of participation in response to changing social, economic and environmental circumstances engaging diverse disparate communities in walking, talking and making.
Based in Purfleet and working closely with our local community, we have created Thurrock 100, a ten-day festival, finding, telling and exchanging stories that connect people to each other and the place that they live.
Silk River transposes this model to an international context for the first time – a tool for re-imagining the relationship between India and the UK and changing our perception of our place in the world. Bringing 32 years experience of working in Kolkata and London I am excited to collaborate up with a team of talented artists and producers to deliver this project with all of you, creating new artworks on Bengali silk and connecting thousands of people through what promises to be an extraordinary journey.
Thank you for walking with us.