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Talia Ramkilawan

South African 1996- 

Talia Ramkilawan is an artist and teacher living and working in Cape Town. Ramkilawan’s work aims to address her own lived experience with South African Indian identity and culture. She uses wool to visualise the complexity of one’s relationship to identity and culture.

Ramkilawan studied at Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. The discovery of rug-hooking in her fourth year of university was a breakthrough moment. She immersed herself in this craft and through this medium she was able to create an intimacy and honesty that felt refreshing. She explains, “I originally wanted to make very traditional tapestries with a loom, while researching I came across a video on YouTube of someone making a carpet. The technique was called rug-hooking and done with a punch needle. I adapted the technique using a crochet needle, wool and by stretching hessian over a wooden frame. It really was something I had never done before and I am still learning every time I start a new piece – how big can I go, how detailed, what materials I can use.”

Ramkilawan describes the process of making these textiles as a process of healing and empowerment. She says that her work “is about forging a sense of community and healing particularly in relation to being from the current generation whilst trying to connect to those who have come before. I have placed an emphasis on community, which is so important in cultural and art production that helps disrupt the linear narrative, exposing how trauma of the past resonates in the present.” Her work explores the intersections and binaries of her lived experience as a queer, Indian woman.

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