Saturday 16 September 2023, 11am – 5pm
Free, all welcome
For Heritage Open Day 2023, Milton Keynes Arts Centre celebrates the rich cultural history of Afghanistan and its people. We will be joined by the Afghan artist, Samira Kitman, who will demonstrating the use of traditional Afghan designs and techniques to make greeting cards; and by Ahmadzia Baktyari, with whom we will be making and flying kites. Veronica Doubleday will be singing traditional Herati folk songs and playing daireh, accompanied on the dutar and rubab by John Baily and on the tabla drums by Yama Shah. Traditional Afghan food and drink will also be on sale, provided by the Wolverton restaurant, Khyber Chefs.
Create Afghan-inspired greeting cards with Samira Kitman
90-minute sessions starting at 11am, 1pm and 3pm
KiteMaking with Ahmadzia Baktyari
2-hour sessions (including flying) starting at 11am and 3pm
Traditional Music of Afghanistan
With John Baily, VeronicaDoubleday and Yama Shah
Performances at 12.30 – 1.20pm and 2 – 2.50pm
Booking essential. If places are booked and we have no-shows, we will offer spaces on a first come first served basis. We will also have a drop-in Cyanotype Workshop with artist Gabrielle Radiguet.
This event is dedicated to the group of Afghan women we met and who we wish well in their new homes; and to the volunteers of the Mead Centre, Newport Pagnell who befriended and supported them. The event has been supported by a grant from TheRadcliffe Trust. We also gratefully acknowledge the loan of Afghan rugs by Gooch Luxury Rugs in Milton Keynes for the event.
After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021, over 24,000 Afghan men, women and children came to the UK seeking refuge. By March 2023, almost 9,000 remained in temporary hotel accommodation, including in Milton Keynes.
In January 2023, volunteers at the Mead Centre in Newport Pagnell invited Milton Keynes Arts Centre to meet a group of Afghan women who joined them there each week. There, the women cooked and shared their own food – a simple act not ordinarily available to them. As a thank you, the Arts Centre invited the women to Great Linford in April when they worked with artist Sarah Hunt in creating cyanotypes – an early form of photography using natural sunlight.
In April 2023 also, the UK Government began a process to stop all bridging accommodation. Around 250 Afghan people had been welcomed in Newport Pagnell in 2021; those remaining were now given just a few months to find new homes. Yet, however difficult their situation, the greatest concern of the women we met was for friends and relatives left behind in Afghanistan – in particular for women and girls.
Since the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in 2021, women and girls have been required to stay at home and to adhere to a strict dress code. They have been banned from entering amusement parks, public baths, gyms and sports clubs and from working in NGO offices. Girls have been banned from secondary school and women from tertiary education. Women doctors have been stripped of their qualifications meaning many women and girls have no realistic access to medical care. Music has also been heavily restricted, many public artworks erased and galleries have closed.
For Heritage Open Day 2023, Milton Keynes Arts Centre celebrates the rich cultural history of Afghanistan and its people. We will be joined by the Afghan artists, Samira Kitman and by Ahmadzia Baktyari, who will be leading workshops in painting and kite making respectively. There will be live music and traditional Afghan food and drink will be on sale throughout the day.
This event is dedicated to the group of Afghan women we met and who we wish well in their new homes; and to the volunteers of the Mead Centre, Newport Pagnell who befriended and supported them. The event has been supported by a grant from The RadcliffeTrust.
Director, Milton Keynes Arts Centre
Help us to build on Heritage Open Day 2023 by donating towards ‘Open House’, a new strand of work specifically designed to support displaced communities living in MK.
Head over to our Donate page to make a contribution.
Since August 2021 Milton Keynes has become home to over 350 people from Afghanistan forced to flee their country.
In support of Mead Centre’s work with refugees and in collaboration with Associate Artist Sarah Hunt, we recently hosted a workshop with an Afghan Women’s Group making cyanotype artworks. The works produced included the national flower of Afghanistan; the tulip, which is native to Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and Central Asia. It symbolises love and purity.
The sun was shining and with support from The Parks Trust, we went for a glorious short walk in Great Linford Manor Park, before foraging for leaves and other natural materials found around the Arts Centre to make our cyanotypes.
Artist Sarah Hunt prepared the light-sensitive solution and coated the fabrics in advance, participants then laid red tulips cut from the artists’ garden and other natural materials onto their individual sheets, collaborating together on a larger piece.