The exhibition ‘Flags of Diversity’, commissioned by the Mayor of London, celebrates London as a multicultural city and as one of the great capitals of Europe. Using traditional and contemporary textile designs that originate from various parts of Europe, the artist Dr. Gil Mualem-Doron marks the integral connections that England and London, in particular, have with Europe.
The exhibition ‘Flags of Diversity’ contains four bodies of work: Rich Mix, London’s Culturescape which are presented on the ramp and the London’s Diversity Map and The New Union Flag which is presented in the cafe.
Rich Mix is a series of collages that are a combination of European textiles that were mixed using various digital processes. The work is influenced by personal flags created by hundreds of children who participated in My Diversity Flag workshops at the Tate Modern, the South Bank Centre, community centres and schools. In the workshops, the children created their flags by representing their cultural heritage but also their daily life and cultural preferences using various textiles.
In the Rich Mix collages, the relationship between the multiple textiles is based on the proximity of different European regions and ethnic groups, and in others, the blend is created using multiple aesthetic parameters. However, in a few cases, the collages carry a particular symbolic value, for example, mixing designs of Germanic, French and Celtic origins which are also, generally speaking, the origins of the English people. The use of Royal Tartans, the London Tartan, show how Tartan designs, since were promoted by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, became the textile that, more than any other, represents London and England. Another textile, the net curtain, synonymous with Englishness, originated elsewhere – in the lace created initially in Brussels, Paris, Venice and other European cities. The English Point Lace (“Point d’Angleterre”) which was produced in Brussels owes its name to the protection formerly given by law to English laces. Much sought after, Belgium laces are believed to have been smuggled into England under the name of “Point d’Angleterre,” to evade customs duties.
The work ‘London’s Culturescape’, a 3.6 meters panorama (exhibiting here in six sections) and London’s Diversity Map (displaying in the Cafe), marks the presence in and contribution of various national and ethnic groups to London by using a variety of European textile designs and fabrics. Here, for example, one can see the development of textile designs by the Huguenots who settled in East London, especially in the creations of James Leman and Anna Maria Garthwaite. Migrants and their contribution to London are also celebrated by using textile designs that originate in Asia and Africa, but the story of diversity is more complicated. Tartan, which is commonly associated with the Scots and until not long time ago was thought of as an early modern invention, was found on three-thousand-year-old mummies in central Asia and in the design of Shukas (blankets) of the Maasai people in East Africa. Similarly to the adoption of Tartan as the national dress by the British royalty, it is also used in the national costumes of the Carribean countries. In the Panorama, it is also easy to detect batik designs mostly associated with West Africa and Ghana in particular. However, these textiles were designed and produced originally in the Netherlands after the Dutch saw it first in Indonesia.