Xenia Women, a Hackney-based community group, is hosting a virtual show to mark the end of its two-week-long takeover of Hackney museum’s social media pages to promote conversations between women from different backgrounds.
The virtual show and tell of Xenia participants’ special objects and their stories, which takes place on April 10, 2021, will be hosted by the group and the museum.
Xenia brings together migrants, refugees, asylum-seeking and British women to connect and support their English learning.
Hackney Museum has been housing the group’s weekly sessions for five years until the pandemic left them meeting on Zoom.
The group provides a safe place to share stories and become more aware of other backgrounds in Hackney.
Xenia is derived from Xenos, meaning ‘stranger’, and is the ancient Greek concept of showing hospitality towards foreigners and guests. Historically, showing guests of your country hospitality was seen as a moral obligation and the host offered protection, safety and shelter.
A Xenia volunteer Rani Govender told Hackney Museum: “We want to amplify stories of local women which have a vital place in museums and help us all learn about the world around us but that we might not always see.”
The Xenia participants now have the opportunity to extend their knowledge and experience through objects which mean a lot to them and share them beyond the four walls of their usual sessions.
The takeover is a culmination of projects run by Xenia over the years, emphasising how everyone’s stories are part of Hackney’s history.
Throughout the two week period, Xenia women have been sharing objects precious to them and the stories surrounding them on the Hackney Museum’s Twitter page.
Fatima, a Xenia member, shared her mosaic box during the takeover, and the story of how she came to have it, in her own words: “These carved mosaic boxes are special to me because when my Mother got married she was given this box and they remind me of my Mother and Father. When I left Syria, I bought these boxes with me to London.
“These carved mosaic boxes are made by skilled craftsmen in the heart of the old city of Damascus in Syria, which was where I used to live. Making them requires accuracy, patience and love as it takes about two months to finish a single piece. The art of mosaics dates back thousands of years to as early as 300BC.
‘The mosaics are delicately carved using a hammer and chisel to shape the wood. Then different types of colours of wood are inlaid such as ebony, rosewood, eucalyptus, walnut, almond, olive and lemon with mother-of-pearl shell. Wooden mosaic furniture are still handmade.”
To hear more stories and see more objects from all walks of life, you can book a ticket for the Xenia and Hackney Museum finale at 11.30-12.30 on April 10 here.