Lucy Orta Traces: Stories of Migration

2 Jun-27 Aug 2023

Nunnery Gallery
London E3 2SJ


Lucy Orta Traces: Stories of Migration offers insight into the migration histories woven into the landscape of east London. 

Led by international artist and researcher Lucy Orta, in partnership with London College of Fashion’s Making for Change as part of The Portal Centre for Social Impact, the participants of the Traces: Stories of Migration workshops came together to share textile knowledge, follow the threads of community migration in the context of the East End rag trade, and celebrate east London’s history of clothing and textile industry. As the culmination of a 2-year project involving over 80 residents across Newham and Tower Hamlets, the installation is a collective tapestry of lived experiences.

The walls of the Nunnery Gallery will reveal two distinct artistic responses that celebrate the collaboration. A ‘Portrait Gallery’ by Lucy Orta: a frieze of 40 large format canvases depicting the makers involved in the workshops recalls motifs from their migration stories. ‘Story Cloths’ made by each maker depict their physical or metaphorical journeys using a range of dexterous textile craft techniques.

On display will also be exerpts from Needle Around Her Neck (Fair Acre Press), a collection of poems penned by author and Royal Literary Fellow Nathalie Abi-Ezzi, who accompanied the project. A film produced by AKO Storytelling Institute that follows the journey of the Story Cloths will debut at the exhibition. 

An inspiring public programme accompanies the exhibition, featuring workshops on upcycling fabric offcuts, Nakshi Kantha embroidery techniques, botanical bundle dyeing, and an introduction to oral history and more, featuring some familiar faces from Traces: Stories of Migration participants. The programme provides opportunities to experience and appreciate the deep connections between storytelling, migration, heritage, and textile-based craft.

Traces: Stories of Migration is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, the Portal Trust, Foundation for Future London, and the AKO Storytelling Institute, as well as Bromley by Bow Centre, Making for Change as part of The Portal Centre for Social Impact, Rosetta Arts, The Fashion District, and The Lab E20.