Hidden Mothers Project : UK based Czech artist Tereza Buskova in conversation with Polish singer Karolina Wegrzyn and Tina Francis, Stitch Innovator
Hidden Mothers video was recorded as part of a public art project by Czech artist Tereza Buskova which is inspired by the cultural customs from Great Britain, Central and Eastern Europe. Its focus is the empowerment of women, in particular mothers, who experience isolation and routinely face stigma in the UK. Hidden Mothers began in Birmingham in 2019 with workshops inviting migrant and refugee mothers.
The project was paused in 2020 – due to the pandemic and emerged again in summer 2021. It is a project in three parts, consisting of workshops, a procession, and an installation of a large-scale replica of a Slovak inspired cottage façade. Adopting a ritualistic approach, the final panels of the construction were carried and assembled by the participants of the ceremonial procession. The project encouraged community engagement through collaborative design, to stimulate transcultural conversations, and to link people who would not otherwise have access to art resources.
The project has been presented in association with Every Woman Biennial and London Festival of Architecture 2021.
Project Supporters and Partners
Arts Council England, Studio Polpo, Every Woman Biennial, Copeland Gallery, Time Assist, Czech Centre London, University of Birmingham and Use-It, Mothership Projects, British Red Cross, E5 Bakehouse, E5 Poplar Union, Poplar Union, Okenko CIC, Dance group Kvitek (Okenko), Czech and Slovak Club Birmingham, Mariana Novotna, Zoe Simon, Stifani Brothers, Chris Keenan (Prime Objective), Karolina Wegrzyn, Tina Francis and Tereza Porybna.
Tereza Buskova (b.1978, Prague) is a Czech artist who lives in Birmingham with her young family. Her practice celebrates and reinterprets long established customs – particularly ritual, tradition and craft as carriers of identity and belonging. She works in print, video, performance, and public art projects, including staging large-scale participatory events with local communities. Slavic rituals were often the starting point for her work, however, since being based in Birmingham Buskova researches and explores other European customs, which are reinvented with her collaborators and community stakeholders. Frequent collaborators are costume maker Mariana Novotna, performer Zoe Simon and cellist-composer Bela Emerson.
Buskova completed her Fine Art Printmaking MA at the Royal College of Art in 2007. Her work has been exhibited at Rituals, David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2008); A Tradition I Do Not Mean To Break, Zabludowicz Collection, London (2009); Rituals Are Tellers Of Us, Newlyn Art Gallery, UK (2013); and Reality Czech: The Czech Avant-Garde, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015). She has exhibited, performed, and lectured in a broad range of different spaces, including Lincoln’s Chambers Farm Wood (2010), Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo (2014), and Erdington High Street, Birmingham, UK (2016) and she recently finished working on her public art project ‘Hidden Mothers’, supported by the Arts Council England, USE_IT Birmingham and Czech Centre in London.
Karolina Wegrzyn is a singer, accordionist and hammered dulcimer player from Poland. She comes from a region rich in traditional customs. Her grandmother used to lead a village folk dance group; since she was very little she would wear folk costumes and perform songs. Karolina is also a visual artist and a song collector. She meets with elderly citizens to record old forgotten songs and stories. Sub-Carpathia, her native region is rich in multiculturalism as it borders with Ukraine
and Slovakia, but also reminisces about Jewish, Roma and Rusyn communities that used to settle there. In her village, people would participate in harvest festivals each year, or in the Christmas celebrations dressed up as King Herod, death and a devil, dancing around the village singing Christmas Carols. Karolina is involved in many projects with various musicians from Birmingham, i.e. Kamil Bogus from EIF (Earth is Flat) which combines traditional songs with ambient electronic music; also with Stacja Fanfara – a concept of gathering musicians from different cultures to play their loved Eastern-European songs. Last year, Karolina also took a third prize in one of her country’s most important folk music competitions, The True Musicians’ Tournament in Szczecin.
Tina Francis working with stitching gives you a different perspective of time. I measure my day in inches, not hours. Stitching is a language all of its own, and it’s familiar. Working with Tereza on the Hidden Mothers project, we use stitch making to communicate with and learn from the participants. I think that it gives you space. Someone once told me that “you can’t stitch when you are angry.” I believe that to be true. When you stitch, you can only really concentrate on the task on hand, so those minutes belong to you alone. I am a professional stitcher and come from a family of makers. I have three brothers, one a master toolmaker, one a builder, and another an interpreter for the deaf. We use our hands to communicate and create. I have my own stitch kit business, wrote books and articles on stitching, and exhibited my work in galleries and museums. I work as a community artist using my art. It’s always about more than stitching, meeting people, and forming friendships, creating a legacy. When a group hand-stitches together, you do not have to make eye contact, so I have found that this creates a more comfortable space to talk. I’ve worked with bereavement groups where stitching has become a flux, giving people the time and space to speak. Working with professional counselors, the skill I can bring is calm concentration, permission to listen. I have a Community Interest Company called Woolly Mammoth Stitch Works, where I partner with a community outreach specialist. The idea is face-to-face meetings where participants create a small piece of stitching that forms a larger piece of work. Hidden Mothers is a fantastic project to work on, and I am a Hidden mother as I have no children of my own but have certainly taught a lot of children to stitch, which has built their confidence and pride.