This ambitious project explored the unique relationship between London and Kolkata through a year’s artistic exchange between communities along the Thames Estuary and Hooghly River. Artistic director Ali Pretty – working in collaboration with associate artistic directors Ruchira Das and Korak Ghosh, as well as an international team of contemporary and traditional artists, writers and photographers captured the experience of journeying along these mighty rivers.
Working in 20 locations from Murshidabad to Batanagar (Hooghly) and Kew Gardens to Southend (Thames) to reinterpret a shared heritage, we raised cultural awareness of the Indo-British relationship through engaging diaspora communities and connecting young people with artists along the route.
Through Artist led workshops (Sept 2016-April 2017) in the 20 communities, we created content through drawing and oral storytelling activities inspired by common themes that capture British and Indian intangible culture.
This material inspired 20 hand-painted Bengal silk scrolls. Ali and an international team of artists led Textile residencies in Murshidabad (Jan 2017) and in Thurrock (July 2017) for 30 – 40 artists, craftspeople and students in each country.
In collaboration with Think Arts we devised animated walks with the 20 communities along both rivers, using the silk scrolls that are inspired by the Bengali tradition of Patachitra to share their stories. In September – December 2017, an international group of artists, writers and photographers were invited to take part on foot and by boat to experience the stories of the two interconnected rivers.
The project was documented by Mike Johnston, senior lecturer in Digital Media at Bath Spa University, working with independent Bengali film maker Korak Ghosh and a team of students from Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata. Kevin Rushby, Guardian travel writer wrote an online blog for this website, enabling an international artistic and literary community to follow and contribute digitally.
Silk River was part of Totally Thames that ran from 1-30 September 2017
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Ali Pretty at Kinetika
Silk River – Documentary
Silk River – Reimagining India
Credit: Korak Ghosh
10 Days along the Hooghly