New Internationalist

Craftivists stitch against hunger

Crafted jigsaw pieces
Craftivist are making jigsaw pieces for action on hunger Robin Prime

Picture a giant art installation composed of large, colourful, fabric jigsaw pieces emblazoned with hand-stitched messages. Look more closely and you’ll be able to read some of these messages – sentiments like, ‘Evil triumphs when good people do nothing’, ‘No act of kindness however small is ever wasted’, and ‘Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim’.

This will be the scene at the People’s History Museum in Manchester on Friday 1 March. Created by the Craftivist Collective, this provocative piece of artwork is being showcased to raise awareness about world hunger and injustice and to support Save the Children’s Race Against Hunger campaign

With the 2013 G8 summit to be hosted by the UK  in June, craftivists are determined to challenge the government to use its power and influence to tackle global poverty and injustice.

Direct, down-to-earth and hardworking, 29-year-old Sarah Corbett is the founder of the Craftivist Collective, based in London. She explains the concept of Craftivism as: ‘Activism using crafts – the craft’s the tool and the activism is the priority.’

A Craftivist stitch-in
A Craftivist stitch-in Robin Prime

Stemming from a reaction to ‘angry activism’, Sarah started stitching mini protest banners in 2008 and blogging about it under the name of ‘The Lonely Craftivist’. It wasn’t long before others started asking if they could join in, which heralded the beginning of the Craftivist Collective.

Now heading up what has become a global collective movement, Sarah recently gave up her job to devote herself to full-time Craftivism. ‘Our manifesto is to expose the scandal of global poverty and human rights injustices through the power of craft and public art,’ she says. ‘We don’t tell people what to do – we provoke them to think and have a discussion.’

This is the idea behind the collective’s latest endeavour: The Jigsaw Project (#imapiece), launched on World Food Day (16 October 2012). Each piece of the puzzle has been stitched by individual craftivists, carrying messages that remind us we can all improve the world and help make it a more beautiful place.

The jigsaw pieces have been created at a number of different ‘stitch-ins’ across Britain. Sarah says that every event has been different, with some taking place in schools and community centres, others in people’s houses with family members or friends and lots of people doing it solo.

Craftivists were also encouraged to make two other jigsaw pieces – one to keep for themselves and one to send to their local MP. ‘It’s engaging MPs in a respectful, encouraging way rather than telling them what to do and think,’ Sarah explains. ‘And it also stops them from having the excuse of just cutting and pasting general answers.’

The jigsaw project has been a slow burner – people have been stitching away since October – allowing time to think deeply about the issues. The 1 March showcase is not the last we will be seeing of the jigsaw artwork. Craftivists in Belfast are currently searching for a venue in which to display the installation when the G8 comes to town in June.

‘Even though we’re a tiny island [in Britain], lots of countries still look to us as world leaders,’ Sarah says. ‘So if we can get our country to make world hunger and poverty a priority at the G8, it will make a huge difference.’

The #imapiece exhibition will be at the People’s History Museum in Manchester on Friday 1 March. The artwork is being showcased between 6.00 and 8.00pm.

To find out more about the Craftvism, the Jigsaw Project and the Race Against Hunger campaign, go to the Craftivist Collective website.

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