Irene’s project felt completely different and completely right to me from the first moment.

Everything I had done so far in terms of jobs was not comparable – and everything I had experienced so far professionally, artistically and privately was applicable.

The stories of my family’s flight during the Second World War from the area near Odessa formed a good basis for the completely new, precious experience in the artistic approach to processing the topic of migration and integration. I have always paid my utmost respect to refugees, because in my eyes there is no more courageous step than leaving everything you are used to and love for the sake of freedom. To create a dress-art work with the tragedy of the flight theme from the formative stories of my childhood was certainly an ideal motivation at the beginning – but not a necessity when realising the multitude of emotions of our participants. Core words that emerged during our work found their way onto a shirt – many more ideas could be implemented. At some point.

Here in Düsseldorf, it was the special people who were immediately enthusiastic about Irene’s special project idea. My colleague and friend Uwe Schimera, who promised his support right from the first exchange and was reliably, emphatically and creatively on hand throughout the summer. Through him, his know-how and his fabrics, our results and experiences have taken on a special quality.

Sofia Sydow, our art therapist with extensive knowledge on a human, artistic, professional and international level, experienced and processed with us the emotional depth and diversity of the escape stories told by our participants from 13 countries.
Elke Wisse from the WELCOME POINT of the DIAKONIE DÜSSELDORF was also a supporting pillar of the realisation from the very first moment with her promise of the premises. With all her experience, contacts and her human closeness to refugees, she paved many paths for us professionally and personally as head of the location.

To introduce the workshops, we had seven decades of pure femininity aged 12 to 73 in the room. The mood around the topic of flight and migration reached us all with equal intensity in exchanges ranging from shared laughter to liberated weeping. Irene made emotion the focus of her project – and so we worked out the emotion around the individual experience and wrote it into a box that could be opened and closed at any time like a diary or treasure chest. Our joint creative work began with bright colours, native flags, different mother tongues and stories – we very quickly shared an emotional togetherness without knowing each other any better … and after a very short time met in a friendly bond while exchanging text and dress ideas and with the large selection of fabrics from Uwe’s studio stock. The women’s stories knew no limits in the conversations – even though everything they experienced was at the limits.

The magical flow of this first event carried us through all the hurdles of implementation in the following weeks. The sensitively and openly shared emotion of the first meeting silenced occasional emerging conflicts even before they arose. It was a friendly, peaceful atmosphere of mutual understanding. Where otherwise in comparable situations small misunderstandings would quickly end the cooperation, here in trusting togetherness new friendships found a beginning.
In mutual trust, female inspirations and textile, western couture material mixed with Arab, Persian, Russian, Bolivian, Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Iraqi, Kurdish, Moroccan, Algerian, Syrian, Ukrainian and German feelings of sadness, hope, dignity, fear and freedom. The different textures, colours and patterns transformed all the different sensations into new ideas and processing of clothing.

Ideas of unleashing and constriction, drawn words of protest and phrases of change and the past. Transformation of tradition and dystopia, from oppressive compulsion to fabulous simplicity, from protection to hope, from colourful cheerfulness to gloomy fear or simple beauty … All feelings could be freely expressed in a personal realisation.

Für uns als Begleiter:innen der Workshops war es eine wertvolle Erfahrung, die echte Stärkung mancher Frauen zu erleben, die sie durch die Gemeinschaft und vertrauensvolle Zusammenarbeit erfahren haben.

Birgit Schwitalla