Biennale 2018, Anna Heringer: Freespace for women in Bangladesh

Didi Textiles, Anna Heringer, Veronika Lena Lang,

Biennale di Venezia,

Venice Biennale,

During our visit to the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, we also went to the Corderie at the Arsenale.

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Biennale 2018, Anna Heringer: Freespace for women in Bangladesh During our visit to the 16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, we also went to the Corderie at the Arsenale. An iconic environment with participations selected by curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara for the Freespace theme. We present the exhibition by Anna Heringer, a German architect renowned for her fair trade approach.

At her second Architecture Biennale in Venice - last time she participated with Martin Rauch and Andres Lepik with Mud WORKS! - the German architect Anna Heringer brings to FREESPACE another issue very dear to her work: THIS IS NOT A SHIRT, which explores the world of textile work in Bangladesh.
One of the exhibitions at this edition's Fuorisalone, WASTE NOT MORE presented by Eileen Fisher with Edelkoort Exhibitions in the Ventura Centrale galleries of the 2018 Fuorisalone already showed us the huge environmental and social impact of the fashion industry (link). So Anna Heringer, whose work has always featured a major fair trade approach, mainly in Bangladesh where her fantastic school METI was the 2007 winner of one of the prestigious Aga Khan Awards, proposes THIS IS NOT A SHIRT. This exhibition is based on the Didi Textiles project initiated by Anna Heringer as the architect and Veronika Lena Lang as a master tailor and brought to life in collaboration with the Bangladeshi NGO for rural development, Dipshikha.
At the centre of the colourful and playful set-up is the textile culture of Bangladesh that is disappearing despite the 4 million-plus people - mainly women - who make a living from the manufacture of textile products in Bangladesh. The goal of the clothing industry is simply to achieve the global standards of quality and working conditions, without even considering the global technological developments that will more than likely soon replace manual labour, leaving behind a sleuth of unemployed people, which spells disaster for this region.
The Didi Textiles team encourages women to capitalise on their artisan skills in creating recycled fabrics, an ancient practice in rural Bangladesh, where a woman receives a sari from her family every year on the occasion of the main religious holiday. When these saris wear out, they are recycled into blankets by hand-stitching about six layers of the cotton garments together. As the blankets also wear out, the original patterns and colours of the saris are revealed in a juxtaposition of layers and memories. These fabrics form the basis for the Didi Textiles initiative, thanks to their transformation or upcycling by the women of Rudrapur, into contemporary designer wear, strictly hand-sewn according to local textile traditions. Because to improve the quality of life of these women, the process is as important as the product. 
THIS IS NOT A SHIRT by Studio Anna Heringer, working to build a new centre in Rudrapur next to METI and DESI will focus on disabled people, so it gives us a look at a very special FREESPACE: the freedom for these women to not be forced to move to the city to work for the big factories, but to be able to live and work with their family in the rural community. Because, as Shelley McNamara said during an interview: “(architecture) it’s like the slow-food movement – you can sometimes operate at a very small scale and have an impact”.
During the Venice Architecture Biennale, Studio Anna Heringer with Didi Textiles has launched a crowdfunding campaign to back this initiative and build the centre.
Christiane Bürklein

Studio Anna Heringer - http://www.anna-heringer.com
16th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia
26 May to 25 November 2018
Arsenale, Venice
Images: courtesy of Anna Heringer and Didi Textiles - Stefano Mori, Anna Heringer
Crowdfunding: https://wemakeit.com/projects/didi-textiles


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