Tate Modern displays work by pupils of Manor Park teacher

PUBLISHED: 07:00 01 June 2018

Sonia Tuttiett (middle) with pupils during the making of the coat. Pic: Mike Tuttiett

Sonia Tuttiett (middle) with pupils during the making of the coat. Pic: Mike Tuttiett


A textiles teacher paid tribute to her students whose coat inspired by immigration was exhibited at Tate Modern art gallery.

The coat. Pic: Mary SpyrouThe coat. Pic: Mary Spyrou

Sonia Tuttiett, of Forth Avenue, Manor Park, said: “I cannot emphasise enough how impressive these women are. They are incredible and have done an amazing thing.”

Mrs Tuttiett – who teaches for East London Textile Arts based in Little Ilford Baptist Church in Sheringham Avenue – explained how the budding seamstresses, many of whom migrated to the UK, embroidered proverbs from their different countries of origin onto the colourful garment using the appliqué technique.

“It came as a complete surprise to them that we ended up at Tate Modern. It was a great opportunity to showcase their skills,” Mrs Tuttiett said.

The coat’s outside, based on the excitement of migrating, includes proverbs including the Iranian saying “One day of famine, one day of honey”.

The coat. Pic: Mary SpyrouThe coat. Pic: Mary Spyrou

But it is lined on the inside with messages explaining how it feels to be an immigrant including fears about racism and prejudice. One embroidered line reveals the guilt one Libyan woman felt over leaving her family behind.

Mrs Tuttiett said: “Newham is a diverse community with people using different forms of expression. But many of the sayings cross cultures and bring people together.

“The coat is a good expression of unity in a divided world.”

The 52-year-old’s mother, Alessandra – who migrated to the UK from Italy with only the clothes she was wearing, her coat and proverbs passed down through the family – inspired the idea.

Mrs Tuttiett estimated about 120 people contributed to the work – put together in a public room over six days at the gallery’s new Blavatnik Building – with the ladies joined by visitors from all over the world, some of whom stayed for hours.

“It was a very lively space. The quality of sewing was amazing. It was really gratifying,” Mrs Tuttiett said.

The organisers, supported by Counterpoints Art which promotes migrant and refugee art, hope now to take the coat on tour.

East London Textile Arts was set up by Celia Ward and brings people of different backgrounds together to do textiles projects.

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