Fairtrade: Can a pair of jeans really cost £5?

Organic cotton dresses

Organic cotton dresses

Fairtrade Fortnight is in full swing – have you registered your step towards ensuring a fair deal for the producers and traders of the everyday things we use? With a backlash against ‘fast fashion’ by media pundits such as Lucy Siegle and an increasingly savvy consumer base interested in the provenance of the things we buy, organic and Fairtrade products are coming to the fore.

Jennifer Harris, curator of COTTON: Global Threads focuses on these issues in the thought-provoking ‘Moral Fibre’ section of the exhibition. In this interview excerpt, she explains the difference between Fairtrade and organic products, and prompts us to question the real cost of the cotton clothing we are most probably wearing right now…

Recorded in situ with Liza Lemsatef Cunningham at the Whitworth Art Gallery.

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Event report – Cheshire Primary Schools Dance Performance

COTTON: Global Threads inspired two-week project, by Steven Roper

A performance by children from Cheshire Primary Schools for their COTTON: Global Threads project. The movement and dance event was performed in front of invited guests, parents and their teachers. The children’s act portrays the ‘life of a cotton picker’ and was the result of a two week adventure with Primary Schools linked to Fallibroome Academy – Special Arts College.


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Focus on: Anne Wilson

Curator Dr Jennifer Harris discusses Anne Wilson‘s work, articles from the Whitworth’s collection that the artist chose to display in the Pilkington Gallery, and interesting connections with further pieces in COTTON: Global Threads.

Audio recorded in Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester with Liza Lemsatef Cunningham. Photography © ellelens.com

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Focus on: Aboubakar Fofana & Grace Ndiritu

Dr Jennifer Harris takes us into the gallery to discuss Les Arbres à Bleus from Aboubakar Fofana and Still Life by Grace Ndiritu, two works occupying spaces leading on from each other in COTTON: Global Threads.

Audio recorded in Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester with Liza Lemsatef Cunningham. Photography © ellelens.com

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Focus on: ‘Six spark plugs’ fabric design

The Curator of COTTON: Global Threads and Deputy Director of the Whitworth, Dr Jennifer Harris discusses with Liza Lemsatef Cunningham this curious design, currently on display in the Textile Gallery, part of the gallery’s extensive textile collection.

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Artist Interview – Lubaina Himid

Gallery view of Lubaina Himid's 'Kangas from the Lost Sample Book'

Gallery view of Lubaina Himid's 'Kangas from the Lost Sample Book'

Images filled with pattern and intriguing slogans line the walls, from an imaginary ‘Lost Sample Book’. Accompanying them are framed portraits, collages of women…

I thought I might be able to have… conversations with all kinds of different audiences if I made portraits of the women who might have owned the kangas…she is displaying ‘this one is mine, don’t forget me!’

Lubaina Himid, artist

Artist interview with Lubaina Himid. Liza Lemsatef Cunningham discusses how the artist engages in ‘curatorial interventions’ with museums and her approach to collaboration to highlight neglected collection pieces.

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Views of Drop Sari

A video showing an installation view of Liz Rideal‘s Drop Sari, at the Whitworth Art Gallery, as part of COTTON: Global Threads. Rideal’s work displays imagery from India and tumbling sari fabrics projected upon white cotton saris – in the gallery, the work has a ‘conversation’ with the delicately draped, magnificently decorated Sultan Tipu’s Tent on the wall opposite. The exhibits are flanked by Rideal’s Ghost Sari prints and a display of vintage sample books featuring Indian fabrics – some of which are actually featured in the Drop Sari film.

(Video © ellelens.com)

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Event Report – Is Fashion Wearing Out The World?

Lucy Siegle Talk and Book Signing, review by Terri Lucas.

Lucy Siegle, Observer columnist and author of To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing out the World? visited the Whitworth last night to talk about the ethics of fashion and how the roles we play as designers through to consumers can affect the world and the lives of other people.

Clothes have become so disposable, they are literally litter.

Lucy Siegle

She talked about how closely fashion and nature are linked but how distant the consumer is from this, how we are unaware of what actually happens in order for us to buy those bargain jeans or that high street top that help us keep up with the latest fashions. She declared that as a result of fast fashion ‘clothes have become so disposable they are literally litter’, saying that young consumers don’t remember a time before fast fashion, when people would buy clothes to last. Instead consumers buy clothes that are so cheap and of such bad quality they often don’t last the first wash and charity shops can only sell them to other countries, thus exporting the problem.

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Artist Interview – Liz Rideal

Liz Rideal's 'Drop Sari' and 'Ghost Sari', installation view. Photo © ellelens.com

Liz Rideal's 'Drop Sari' and 'Ghost Sari', installation view

Inky traces of a sari physically crumpled through a press contrast with a delicately suspended sari wafting as projected images dance upon it. The viewer is seduced by the work even after the gallery has closed, with an intriguing LED and video projection illuminating the Victorian façade, red brick in the style of architecture common when Manchester was known as Cottonopolis.


The outside, a magical weaving of light…inside…the mirroring of the film outside, creating a sort of Rorschach effect, there’s something mesmeric about it.

Liz Rideal, Artist

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Artist Interview – Aboubakar Fofana

Aboubakar Fofana Installation view. Photo © ellelens.com

Aboubakar Fofana Installation view. Photo © ellelens.com

A tree… they saw many, many things… wars, conflicts, and also they hear many secrets…

Aboubakar Fofana, Artist

Aboubakar Fofana with his work. Photo © ellelens.com

Aboubakar Fofana with his work. Photo © ellelens.com

Liza Lemsatef Cunningham chatted to artist Aboubakar Fofana about his work, its meaning, and his unique process of contemporary art-making inspired by traditional techniques and materials from Mali, West Africa, and his background as a painter and calligrapher.

Fofana’s striking installation Les Arbres a Bleus is currently on display as part of COTTON : Global Threads at the Whitworth Art Gallery, and the artist also gives his impressions of the exhibit, describing which pieces he found particularly resonant within the exhibition.

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