Join the WOCI Reading Group in exploring, activating and indexing representations of cultural identity within the Panchayat Special Collection at Tate with Symrath Patti 


Full address: Tate Britain, Library & Archive Reading Rooms, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
Event Date: Friday 28th September 2018
Time: 10.30am – 1.00pm

In these collaborative monthly research sessions at Tate, the WOCI Reading Group will draw upon the Panchayat Special Collection during its anniversary year; collectively exploring and highlighting the unique material within this vital collection of rare publications and exhibition ephemera from the 1980s.

Workshop reading text:

“The Content
The overriding aim of this course was to put the girls at ease with their bodies and the changes they were undergoing. To get the girls used to the discussion environment we started with a less personal/threatening area. We encouraged them to look at similarities and differences amongst themselves, e.g. shape, colour, height etc. We followed this upon the next session by looking at the changes their bodies have undergone since they were born e.g. growth, spots, bodily hair etc. We had asked them to bring in baby photos of themselves to help facilitate a comparison. This put the sessions that were to follow into context: We were going to look look at specific changes, making clear that they were perfectly normal and necessary.” GEN, an anti-sexist education magazine, women’s education group.

* photocopies of the extended version of this text will be available during the session.

Panchayat Special Collection
Panchayat was co-founded by Shaheen Merali and Allan de Souza in 1988, after consultation with artists Bhajan Hunjan, Symrath Patti, and Shanti Thomas. Panchayat was first organised by its co-founders as a project based arts organisation whose focus was to create an archive of works by contemporary artists who produced issue-based work, often in relation to developing and addressing plurality in multicultural environments. As Panchayat developed it was involved in publishing, curating exhibitions, programming conferences, and workshops.

The Panchayat Collection consists of documentation and reference library material relating to the cultural activities and activism predominantly in Britain, mainland Europe, North America and SE Asia between the 1980s and 2003. The Panchayat archive’s collecting strategy focused on the growing interactions within a globalising artworld of Black and Asian artists, as well documenting their commitment to the intersection between race, class, gender, policed sexualities, and (dis)ability. Dr Janice Cheddie and Shaheen Merali were keepers of the Panchayat Archive at the University of Westminster 2002 -2015 and remain central to its future development.

In May 2015 the contents of the collection were donated to the Tate Library as part of its Special Collection and since then has attracted researchers from both the arts and the humanities, including newer audiences that are interested in diasporic connections, Black and Asian British artists 1988- 2003, curatorial practices that emerged in the late eighties and in the role of women of colour in the visual arts and education.

Symrath Patti
Symrath Patti is an artist based in London and also one of the founders of Panchayat Archive. She currently has a studio with ACAVA in Shepherds Bush. Her work is installation based and explores the site of the female body as a deconstructive process. The early exhibitions and curating included: ‘Creation for Liberation’ 1985, ‘Artists Against Racism’ 1989, ‘Panchayat’ 1988 at Soho Poly Theatre, ‘Jagrati’ 1986, ‘The Complete Promise’ 1990, ‘Cuban Biennale’ 1991, ‘Cher Cher La Femme’ 1996.Throughout the 80’s and 90’s Symrath worked in arts development and education creating a space for dialogues. She was also advisor for Greater London Arts  and Campaign Organisations such as Southall Monitoring Group. More recently she exhibited at Kingsway Corridor at Goldsmiths University and making new work exploring Asian Patriarchy/Matriarchy in the Punjabi language.

WOCI Reading Group
The Women of Colour Index (WOCI) Reading Group was set up in October 2016 by artists, Samia Malik, Michelle Williams Gamaker and Rehana Zaman. The WOCI Reading Group aims to improve visibility for women of colour artists whilst using archive material to generate discussion and practice around current social and political concerns.
The reading group meets on a monthly basis to discuss work within the Women of Colour Index (WOCI); a unique collection of slides and papers collated by artist Rita Keegan that chart the emergence of Women of Colour artists during the ‘critical decades’ of the 1980s and 1990s. Reading group sessions aim to improve the visibility of women of colour artists whilst using material in the archive to generate discussion, thought and practice around current social and political concerns. All people of all backgrounds, genders, sexualities, disabilities, religions and race are welcome.

To book tickets please visit Tate Webpage:

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