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Winchester School of Art

The Elders Craft and English Exchange project launched in Winchester as a pilot

Published: 3 April 2014
Elders Craft and English Exchange

We are pleased to announce an exhibition at the Winchester Discovery Centre documenting meetings between Nepalese members of ‘The Elders Craft and English Exchange’ and Winchester School of Art students.

Winchester Area Community Action (WACA) launched The Elders Craft and English Exchange (ECEE) project started in Winchester as a pilot from 22nd November 2012. The project which reached Hampshire wide is designed to bring together elderly Nepali and ex-Ghurka men and women that have relocated to England and find new ways to engage with local community, to build confidence in communication, and reduce the isolation and alienation that can often be felt.  English speaking volunteers joined the project to share and exchange craft and language - building the bridges of communication and whilst they themselves were learning new skills.

In February 2014 the Winchester Nepalese Elders embarked on an ambitious series of meetings and workshops with local students in their final year at the Graphic Arts BA Hons Course at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton. This exciting exchange culminates in an exhibition at the Winchester Discovery Centre Friday 25th April to Thursday 15th May 2014 and an image-led publication ‘Bhetghat Samuha' documenting the groups' interaction and exchange, as well as crafts from across the project and the legacy book of the sustaining project.

Workshops at the Winchester School of Art promoted shared learning through a variety of design led activities that were new to the Elders. Group drawing and illustration; depicting stories about home, maps and craft objects. Letterpress-printing workshop where posters were created from a woodblock alphabet and words printed in English and Nepali. A live demonstration of mechanical knitting, digital processes and weaving machines used by the textiles department. Photography students also worked with the Elders in the photographic studio to create portraits and document their craft objects.

In return, the elders demonstrated their skillsets to the students - demonstrating and sharing their expertise in weaving with bamboo, paper and plastic, crochet and knitting. Alongside these craft skills, rare insights into Nepalese culture were provided; with members of the group demonstrating traditional song and dance, presenting objects from Nepal and displaying traditional dress.

Students have used their design knowledge and skills to set up an online shop where the Elders can sell their craft objects, proceeds feeding back into the Winchester group with the aim of the group becoming self-sustaining. Longer-term plans are to develop product through a collaborative venture between Winchester School of Art and ECEE.

Since November 2012, WACA has reached out to 187 members of the elder Nepalese community and engaged them with locals through the traditional craft methods they've honed over time. We aim to give some insight into the culture and creativity of this welcoming Winchester group and the cross-cultural exchange at Winchester School of Art.

The ‘Bhetghat Samuha' limited edition book is on sale for a donation price - profits of all sales will go to the sustainability of ECEE Winchester.

An online shop has been designed by students to sell the woven plastic mats Chakati, made by some of the Elders, with all profits going towards the running of ECEE group meetings.

For information about the publication, online shop and Winchester School of Art please contact Susanna Edwards: mail@susannaedwards.com

For more information about joining the group as an English speaking volunteer, please contact Clara Sanjar, Development Support Service, to discuss how you can get involved; call: 07765121416 or e-mail at: csanjar@waca.org.uk

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