Sunday, 18 March 2012

Connecting Women through the Art of Quilting

Just last week, Rhonwyn (my fellow intern), Lucy and I took a taxi to Bangsar Village Mall to meet Gill, a quilter who lent a hand to the Portraits of Perseverance project.

Prior to meeting Gill, I read an article on how an American woman used the art of quilting to help a group in Rwanda overcome the grief that a genocide had caused.

Hearing from Gill opened my eyes to how quilting helped four Malaysian women express themselves, just like how it helped the people of Rwanda.

Gill (left) and a staff member in her shop, Quilt Gallery.

Gill's quaint little shop inside the shopping mall had several shelves of quilts, cloth, patchwork, needles of various sizes and other quilting materials. Being an art junkie myself, I couldn't help but admire the many ready-made hand stitched bags, purses and decorative cloth of assorted colours.

A few people sat around the prepared tables in her shop, working at their crafts. In contrast to the rather quiet environment of her shop, Gill is extremely bubbly and lively. As we were ushered into her workplace, Gill's friendly chatter had me feeling comfortable.

Making the quilt!

Under Gill's guidance and with her expertise, the four women of Portraits of Perseverance put together their stories in the form of a beautiful quilt. "That was my deposit in my spiritual bank account." Gill said, explaining her idea of linking and bonding women of different backgrounds and from different places through quilting.

"I like creating, I love colours," but in Gill's opinion, quilting is more than just an artistic outlet. Through quilting, the Sai Baba disciple found that she could find her idea of spiritual fulfillment. "Along the way, I realized it (quilting) is a healing process. I'm connecting to women. It's a healing process. It's also very much an interactive process."

Gill assisted Nisha, Sulastri, Lucy and Pong to understand and express themselves better through the quilting project. Somehow, she felt she was fated to meet the women, and to help out. "There are no coincidences in life."

The quilting project gave the women a chance to express their thoughts and feelings. I believe the women have had to endure their fair share of being judged by people throughout their lives. But when we asked Gill about her thoughts concerning the four ladies, before and after she met them, her reply was simple.

The four women with their works of art.

"When I look at the five women, who am I to judge?" Gill shrugged.

If only more people could think that way and stop judging others. Then maybe the world would be a better place.

To some people, the quilt may just be a beautiful quilt and nothing more. Definitely not for Gill, as she found the stitched butterfly an artistic piece that stood out among others. Quilting one's story is a symbol and expression of freedom, which I believe is ultimately what these women are working to achieve. Freedom from judgment and freedom from hurt.

"We all want freedom. I'm using quilting as a form of expression, putting all moods and thoughts into the making of the quilt."

The few hours we spent listening to Gill's stories and her views on women and religion was a refreshing experience for me. And as we left, I think I gained a little something from Gill, just like how I believe Nisha, Sulastri, Lucy and Pong did.

By Junmey

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