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Isn’t That Beautiful

Khubsoorat developed out of the Friday Night Drama project at The Azaad Centre, a Seen and Heard pilot intended to establish a drama club to respond to the social, cultural, educational and recreational needs of the Asian and other black minority communities resident in Middlesbrough.

The pilot was unsuccessful, with young people reluctant to commit and with various cultural restrictions arising from a mixed gender group.

Through consultation with the individuals involved and with the Street Link workers, a young women only group was established, involving nineteen young women aged between 13-20 years. They met at The International Centre in Middlesbrough on Thursday evenings, and worked with various artists providing a wide range of stimulating activities which would allow the participants to express themselves and explore ideas around gender, race, identity and place.

Starting with traditional craft sessions the young women worked with artist Nina Malde to develop skills in Rangoli, Batik and fabric painting, Indian embriodary and tie dye, producing a body of highly colourful hangings and coverings.

Gaining confidence in their artistic abilities the women worked with fine artist Sue Thompson, exploring drawing skills and developing free hand designs, calligraphy and experimented with differences in scale.

The group began to work with a specialist company known as Creative Glass over several weeks and refined their free hand designs into glass panel etchings and mirror decoration. Following the presentation of their work to parents, friends and staff at a pilot exhibition at The International Centre, the group expressed their interest in movement and self defence.

There followed a series of workshops in Capoeria (the Brazillian dance martial art), two visits to Teesside University to access the trampoline equipment, under the guidance of a qualified coach, followed by a series of workshops in Arabian Dance led by Merhaba. The group exhibited their work at an second exhibition in Albert Park Pavilion as part of Middlesbrough Mela in July 2002, and later at Cleveland Arts AGM at Centre North East in Oct 2002.

The girls really enjoyed the project and gained a lot from it because it was so varied. It forced them to work together as a team and that made them a stronger group. They gained confidence by being able to do things that they would never be able to learn normally.

Tasnim Niaz — International Centre Manager / Khubsoorat group support officer