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Guernica resewn

Brighton artists are remaking Pablo Picasso's masterpiece for the modern fight against fascism, says BERNADETTE HYLAND

This Saturday will see a number of anti-fascist events. In Bradford Unite Against Fascism and We Are Bradford have called a peaceful celebration of multiculturalism in response to threats of an EDL march.

In Liverpool, Unite the union has called a march against fascism supported by anti-fascism and anti-racism campaigners.

And in Salford's Working Class Movement Library activists and artists from Brighton will hold an anti-fascist sew-in.

The group are remaking Pablo Picasso's anti-fascist masterpiece Guernica, sewing the image onto a banner.

Artist Maude Casey explains: "We're increasingly concerned about the frequency of the EDL marching in Brighton and other places with its message of hate."

Casey notes that in times of austerity, fascism preys on people who blame immigrants or other races for their suffering rather than identifying the economic reasons for it.

"I was intrigued by the idea of collaboratively remaking Picasso's Guernica as a protest against fascism."

Casey, like many of the others in the collective artists' group, has a history of anti-fascist activism.

Other members have been involved in making banners for causes including Greenham Common and the campaign against the US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay.

"All of us have taken part in political action where the creation of a banner or a placard, or items of clothing or badges, have been part of that action - dramatically enacting or expressing it while also inviting engagement and dialogue," she says.

Central to the project is the collaborative nature of the sewing process - which takes place in public spaces such as libraries, galleries and community centres.

Our public libraries are precious - they give the opportunity for diverse groups of people to meet and gather, to find information and spend time together.

During their sessions the banner participants sit down with anyone who's interested in taking part in the sewing. People are given the opportunity to talk about their own experiences of war.

"It has been very moving as people have spoken about their life histories, sharing experiences which range from the bombing of Brighton and the evacuation from London during the second world war, the experience of Basque children's evacuation by boat to England during the Spanish civil war to people who have recently fled war and torture in their home countries," Casey says.

This sharing process is central to the project, she believes.

"Doing anything together is empowering. You feel less isolated, particularly because of the battering that many people are experiencing at this time.

"It's very positive to make banners, to do something practical that puts people in touch with their own creativity and imagination."

Being able to sew is not a prerequisite to taking part in the banner making. There has been a diverse group of people turning up at the sessions, including many men who are keen to learn how to sew as well as some who shared experiences of growing up in cultures where they sewed with their grandmothers.

Casey sees the act of sewing as a powerful symbol of resistance.

"It's apparently small and modest - making some stitches in a textile.

"But the banner says 'we are resisting, we have always resisted and we will continue to resist'."

The artists see their project as in the same spirit that motivated Picasso's painting - remembering the past horrors of war and its effects, particularly upon civilians.

"We all see the collaborative process of making as a powerful antidote to the destructive powers of war and violent political systems."

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom is heavily involved in the project and Casey feels women bear a particular burden during wars.

"Women have a different experience of war. We produce sons. We most frequently experience rape as a weapon of war. We are victims of trafficking.

"And we campaign for organisations to bring about an end to this."

Picasso once said about his art: "No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war for attack and defence against the enemy."

The new Guernica banner also has a dual purpose. It's a piece of art and will hang in galleries.

But it has been made big enough for 12 people to carry it on protests and play its part in the continuing resistance to fascism.

 

Turn up and join in this Saturday at the Working Class Movement Library, 51 The Crescent, Salford, from 2pm to 5pm. You can help make the banner - no prior experience needed - or have a cup of tea and a chat. For more details of the project see www.remakingpicassoguernica.wordpress.com.

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