SUNDERLAND women have been using arts activity to relieve the stress and isolation of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Sunderland Women’s Art Group, run by Sangini and Friends of the Drop-In for Asylum Seekers and Refugees (FODI), has been working with artists to complete online sessions in drawing and felting.

Sangini is a Sunderland-based multicultural organisation working to improve women’s lives through educational, creative and participatory activities, while FODI, based in Bridge House, Bridge Street, aims to improve the mental health and well-being of the asylum-seeking and refugee community in Sunderland.

Artists Padma Rao and Miki Z used their drawing and felting sessions to encourage women to think about their lives and how lockdown has affected them. The sessions were run with support from The Cultural Spring, Wearmouth Community Development Trust and Community Foundation National Emergency Trust.

Padma explained: “We wanted the women to find solace from the harsh reality of the increasing impact of the lockdown. Almost all of them had experienced the effects of the pandemic in one form or the other including the loss of loved ones.

“The creative activities proved healing and were therapeutic. Over the weeks the women gradually built their self-confidence through learning together. The women supported each other by helping each other with technology, such as how to operate Zoom, and celebrating each other’s creativity by posting artwork online and on social media.”

Padma and Miki created ‘how to’ tutorial videos which were shared on YouTube. Padma added: “The results were an amazing array of work by the women.”

The theme of this year’s Refugee Week is ‘Imagine’ and the women’s art group and women from the refugees group collaborated to create some moving artwork.

Sreelekha Reddy, Chair of Sangini, said: “The artwork was especially poignant in the current climate of unrest, where there is a greater need to have more understanding about each other.  The sessions provided the women with an opportunity to learn new skills, develop new ideas and to support each other.

“While Refugee Week gave us a focus on the issues of migration, displacement and identity, we hope that these conversations will continue long after the week has finished.  We have discovered new ways of connecting with people and through arts and crafts we can make a difference to what people think about the refugees and asylum seekers in our society.”

Sandra Watt, Project Manager at FODI, said: “The refugee women have brought forward their talents and creativity with humility. Their partaking of these activities shows their common shared humanity with the wider society where so many have turned to the arts during lockdown.”

Find some of Padma and Miki’s sessions here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZXbHfQvLC8&t=27s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zs_gcKrGJP0&t=13s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Td1Z17BGfOI&t=17s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQAAJzlGdyo