Mera Tabbar Written by Jasmin Singh

Paraire 17 Noema

Friday 17 November


Love is the first word I think of when I look at Quishile’s work. Love pours out of every length of fabric, every print, every stitch, every fibre, and every frame that forms her body of work. It feels almost cliché to talk about love nowadays—everyone is theorising about it as an emotion, and questioning where it exists within their lives, platonically, romantically, or both. To me, love is not just an emotion. Love is action, love is process, love is nurture, and love is the soft mundane moments of care that  shape the invisible borders of Quishile’s work.

Araam started out as a large-scale textile exhibited at Artspace Aotearoa.1 It will later get unpicked and turned into pillowcases for loved ones. Araam’s heart—the rectangular centre-pieces dyed with genda phool—will be adorned with the embroidered names of loved ones and bordered by ruffles made from its cutch-dyed, eco-printed border. 

Now in its second iteration at Blue Oyster, Araam has expanded and grown from a singular textile work to an entire exhibition, consisting of four new textile works and a short film. The film captures Quishile’s process of making and the many hands it takes to produce naturally dyed fabrics. The new textiles will include additional dyed and printed fabrics that will later be made into a quilted blanket to warm members of Quishile’s chosen family for years to come.

Quishile’s textile-making entwines the processes of nurture, love, care, and community. The textiles are a window into the loved ones she is around when making, in going to pick genda and hibiscus phool with dance music pumping in the car, in tending to the fire for the lovo, in quiet gathering around a table, pressing flowers into fabric to ensure their prints are visible. Araam as a show is a manifestation of love in action.

Even when Quishile is physically alone in her making, she's never really alone. Her relationship to her textiles is evident in the extended time she spends with them, coming back to them as an old friend every time she prepares them to be dyed, printed, stitched, and embroidered. Her loved ones feature in this ‘alone time’ with her fabric and as an extension of this one-on-one relationship. 

Her chosen family is present in the silent time she spends with this old friend, when they can hear the sounds of muffled conversations and footsteps around the house. Her chosen family is also present in the TV shows and podcasts she has on in the background while embroidering—the ones that she will later share with us—and in the anticipation of showing us the new techniques she’s learnt. 


Quishile is a maker, and making is always an act of love and care. This love and care permeates the textiles from the spaces the work is made in, from the conceptual beginnings to the ‘final’ product. At its most basic, it involves intention—thinking of the person you are making for, taking the time to make for them, thinking of their likes and their dislikes and the contexts they come from, thinking of their favourite colours, having extended conversations about the things that you both care about, translating this to a physical object that exists beyond just the physical. 

Quishile and I come from cultures that value fabric and clothing as adornment, as love and as living vessels that carry stories. For me, textiles embody the rooms they were made in, including the soundscapes of the spaces they are then also worn or used in. Every fibre that features in Araam has been dyed, sewn, and adorned within our home. The textiles exhibited at Blue Oyster are an embodiment of our lounge on a rainy Saturday afternoon with the sounds of reality tv and laughter, the smells of someone putting together their lunch, or the sound of the sewing machine running in the garage as a keyboard clacks away with someone working on their writing in the same room.

Araam is a snapshot of time, of the past, our present, and our future. It provides a glimpse into our home at a specific point, imbued with the deep joy, roaring laughter and the infinite care and support we experience living an unconventional life with chosen family. The works shown at Blue Oyster will never exist again in this form. Once pillowcases, they will become a surface on which we can safely rest our heads and a quilt in our current home and whatever home we build going forward. There is no finality to Quishile’s work, which is exactly how craft and clothing exists within the home, as items that are used, added to, mended, or altered. When you see the work at Blue Oyster, they are different to what they were before and what they will be after. 

Quishile has often written about the ways in which craft is demeaned as women’s work, as a frivolous hobby of making pretty things. However, we often forget the ways in which rooms are adorned through craft work, how that is love in action, how ‘beautiful things’ make a home. Her current body of work shows the beauty of building homes and futures beyond colonial-capitalist ideas of family. Her work often challenges the binary presented within the contemporary art world, in which work can only be critical and political or beautiful, unapologetically claiming both. 



Quishile challenges the boundaries that get pushed upon craft in a contemporary arts context, which diminishes it as something to dabble in due to its everydayness and domesticity. Despite the change in scale and focus of Quishile’s work—from large-scale tens-of-metres-long textiles, to smaller and medium scale detailed pieces—her work continues to showcase the immense technical skill and knowledge required to be a craft practitioner and knowledge holder of these cultural practices. She demonstrates the ways in which the everyday functional and utilitarian cloth that warms a loved one or becomes a safe space to lay your head is technically complex in the knowledge and skill required to create it. 

The works exhibited at Blue Oyster are the outcome of dye tests conducted over the last three-plus years, providing a testing space for Quishile to develop recipes. They are a result of exercising her ancestral muscle memory and can now be translated to larger textiles and even further experimentation. This process has been like cooking from the recipes of family members, where they tell you what spices they put into the tarkari/sabji, but you have to figure out the amounts by tasting as you go. Quishile has started to develop her own shorthands and measurements, her own recipes for what she creates in both her craft work and the life she chooses to live.  

Living outside the confines of heteropatriarchy requires experimentation. There is no structure, no existing recipe for creating a life of unconditional love. Quishile and her chosen family use these ingredients of love, nurture, and care, and continue to act on them, tasting and learning as we go to create a recipe that works for us.

1 Scores for Transformation with Özlem Altın, Quishile Charan, Judith Hopf, Laida Lertxundi and Rosemary Mayer, Artspace Aotearoa, 24 June - 19 August, 2023

Jasmin Singh

Jasmin Singh is a Malaysian-Punjabi writer and facilitator currently based in Tāmaki Makaurau. With a background mainly in criminology and academic writing, Jasmin has recently applied her academic research within the areas of community engagement and growth. Her areas of interest are storytelling through creative writing, migration, migrant rights and anti-colonial work, with a focus on solidarity between non-white migrants and indigenous peoples.

Jasmin has been involved with Migrant Zine Collective, an activist-based zine collective aiming to amplify, celebrate and share the voices of migrants of colour in Aotearoa, and Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga, a group facilitating community education and discussions about Te Tiriti o Waitangi, colonialism and the complicities of people of Pan-Asian descent in Aotearoa’s settler-colonial project.