The Creating Heroines exhibition stall at WOW - Women of the World - Festival at Southbank Centre, London presented British Council activity with artists that took place in Colombo, Karachi and Kathmandu. It also displayed outcomes from a 3-day artists’ workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal, for which my role was facilitating UK artist. Participating in the workshop activity were:
Left to right back row: Daisy Leitch (British Council), Delphine Pawlik (British Council), Samya Arif (Pakistan, illustrator, designer) Dr Nicola Streeten (UK, illustrator, graphic novelist, comics scholar), Promina Shrestha (Nepal, researcher, educator and illustrator). Front Row: Isuri Merenchi Hewage (Sri Lanka, illustrator, children's and comic book artist), Bandana Tulachan (Nepal, illustrator) & Shraddha Shrestha (Nepal, illustrator, designer, street artist).
Isuri Merenchi Hewage and Promina Shrestha designed and ran stalls at WOW Colombo and Kathmandu festivals respectively, which gathered ideas and inspiration from the crowds about heroines and the theme. I attended the WOW Kathmandu Festival and saw the enthusiastic response to Promina’s activity, inviting people - young and old -to draw their own heroines.
From right to left: Promina Shrestha, Bandana Tulachan, Shraddha Shrestha
Isuri Merenchi Hewage collated a delightful zine from discussions with the audience at WOW Colombo. We were pleased to have some of them to give away at WOW London.
“This is a box that I don’t fit into” Zine produced by Isuri Merenchi Hewage
At the artists’ workshop we interpreted our collective responses into some amazing artwork. This was gathered into The Creating Heroines Zine to which we all contributed.
The front cover of The Creating Heroines Zine. Image © Samya Arif
We produced copies to distribute at WOW London and Samya Arif’s eye-catching imagery on the front cover ensured they were received enthusiastically.
We explored other ways to showcase the images for the Stall. Promina Shrestha and Bandana Tulachan created short visual narratives. Bandana’s sequential story of the everyday heroism of her aunt worked well as a poster.
A Typical Traveller © Bandana Tulachan
Promina Shrestha developed 3 characters that worked perfectly as an enlarged cutout.
Characters © Promina Shrestha
One of Samya Arif’s designs also worked well as a large cutout
© Samya Arif
Shraddha Shrestha’s practice includes wall art. She agreed to treat an A0 size poster as a wall and her design was produced to stunning effect.
‘You can be anything’ © Shraddha Shrestha
Isuri Merenchi Hewage’s reflections on heroism as the commonplace activity of women in Sri Lanka also translated into striking a striking poster.
© Isuri Merenchi Hewage
I had originally had some ideas for display on the London stall which I thought were really great…but…
© Nicola Streeten
I had also wondered about typical representations…
© Nicola Streeten
So we decided to produce the collected images on a “saree” - printing on a length of cotton with saree dimensions. It would have been brilliant to have worn one of the final printed versions, but on this occasion, we used it as a backdrop to the stall.
The ‘Creating Heroines’ saree backdrop to the stall with Samya Arif’s cutout at the front
We were really pleased to be able to include the wonderful puppets created by Pakistani puppet artist Yamina Peerzada, Sara Nisar and Amneh Shaikh-Farooqui on the stall. These were originally created for WOW Karachi. The puppets in boxes were visual responses to written narratives. The audience was invited to listen to music relevant to each story whilst they read the text and looked at the puppets.
Audience engaging with the puppets at WOW London
On the Saturday morning I ran a short workshop open to everybody, as an introduction to the comics form. This gathered a keen group of people and we had a fun time, drawing and talking. My main aim was to show how anyone can begin to draw comics.
Southbank Centre was brought to life with a contagious energy throughout the WOW Festival. The ‘Creating Heroines’ stall attracted around 2,000 visitors over the three days and we had many interesting and thought-provoking conversations.
The zine is available online as a PDF available here.*
*(please note the zine contains mature content)