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Cotton: Labour, Land, and Body

Text: Adrian Kreutz


We all own something made of cotton: a t-shirt, socks, or pillowcase. Yet, despite its ubiquity, we rarely talk about the origins of this material, its story, and the political conditions connected to its production and distribution. 

An exhibition at the London Crafts Council explores the colonial and postcolonial legacies of the cotton production and how it shaped the relations between Britain and South Asia. For thousands of years, cotton has been skilfully cultivated and crafted into garments. Merchants of this fluffy fibre have built entire empires. The cotton trade created great wealth for some, and enslavement, poverty, and fatalities for others. The history of entire communities, especially in Asia, is interwoven with the history of the cotton plant. 

The exhibition shows work by the artists Raisa Kabir, Brigid McLeer, Bharti Parmar and Reetu Sattar. They show the history of the cotton fibre through textiles, film, and works on bunched khadi paper. Handwoven jacquard textiles reveal a Bangal script, and intricate paperwork tells the story of Ghandi’s campaign to boycott imported cotton cloth to end British rule in India. 

「Cotton: Labour, Land, and Body」
Crafts Council Gallery , London 

The exhibition Cotton: Labour, Land, and Body can be visited for free until 4 March 2023, Wednesday – Saturday, 11:00 – 5:00pm at the Crafts Council Gallery, N19BY London.

Adrian Kreutz
Political Theorist and writer. Based in London, Adrian teaches philosophy and politics at the University of Oxford, UK.

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