Shakti Project...

Shakti [2010-2011]

Shakti means power and is a synonym for woman in Hindi. The Shakti project has aimed to provide support for and raise awareness of domestic violence by engaging women from the BME community and others with disadvantaged backgrounds in creative activity that has explored their own views and experiences of these issues.

Working with artist Josephine Taggart women took part in group activity where they produced life boxes that reflect their own experiences, tell stories of endurance and survival, and give messages to others about domestic violence. The groups involved in producing the life boxes have included women from refuges run by Wearside Women in Need [WWIN], a group from MIND and members of the local south Asian community. The activities were supported by
listeners from Bridge and MIND. Most women also kept journals whilst participating in the sessions. The boxes have resulted in a powerful portrayal of the women’s own experiences with objects such as clocks and money being used to express the ways that their partner and other family members exerted control over them. In one box two masks have been used to express the transformation in a woman’s life, and in others there is powerful use of text. The women who
took part have been from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds including Asian, African, Chinese and traveller women.

Some participants also took part in glass printmaking workshops led by Theresa Easton at the National Glass Centre leading to the glasswork, screen printing and boxes being displayed at that site alongside the comments of some group members during the autumn of 2010. The life boxes were also on display at the Sunderland Winter Gardens during December and January 2011.

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Pictures of life boxes




An empty whiskey bottle is a precursor to another bout of verbal and physical abuse. An empty purse signifies no means of escape. The prescription for medicine is the result of twenty five years of repeated torment and the toll this takes on the body. The book and the pages represent the life story that this survivor is currently writing.







Masks to replicate feelings. One mask represents a feeling of sadness and confusion based on having to leave everything behind in order to flee from an abusive partner and enter a refuge.
The second mask represents hope for future and in between, a red silk bag holds unseen dreams and wishes writings.




A cut up bank card is the symbol of a relationship and the financial control one person can use over another. A ‘to do’ reminder signifies the ongoing struggle to regain parental access to her children. The broken phone is a sign of misinformation given to her by an ex-husband. The leaves represent turning over a new leaf and changing her situation. A note in the cloth holder is a promise to herself to make those changes.






“Working on the ‘Life boxes’ of the Shakti project has enabled me as an artist to link in to the life experiences of the participants in order to work creatively with the women. Each box is a unique history of the person who created it. I have felt very privileged to be accepted and trusted with the personal life stories of the participants.”
Josephine Taggart Artist

The creative writing and drama elements of Shakti were led by Manchester based poet Shamshad Khan and by director Nazli Tabatabai Khatambakhsh from the Zendeh theatre group. Together they delivered workshops where women were encouraged to share their stories through writing which was integral to creating a short theatre piece entitled “Sara and Sarah.” This was performed as part of International Women’s Day celebrations for 2011 at the Royalty Theatre in Sunderland. Young women from the theatre’s own Youth Academy also performed a companion piece.

Pictures from the Royalty theater performance:

 “ Shakti deepened my experience of working with women who have experienced domestic violence and particularly my experience of working in a refuge setting. It reinforced my working knowledge of the creative process and working with women on sensitive issues. ” Shamshad Khan Poet

” It has been an important journey in revisiting my expertise in working with women in both community and refuge contexts and indeed deepening this creative practice with continued imagination and sensitivity.”
Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh Director

These poems and reflections on love and life were written by women in Co. Durham and Pennywell as part of creative sessions run by Nazli and Shamshad . They celebrate love and the power of women.

She stands in the kitchen
with her head all bare
no one sees her
but I know she’s there
She’s travelled many roads
without leaving home
she’s surrounded by people
but stands on her own
a cry in the night
a thump in the dark
they say that his bite
is worse than his bark
a footstep or two on the landing floor
a hand on the door now
a squeak of the hinge
his heavy breathing is making me cringe
The boards on the ship are creaking
As the ship sails on the sea
Heading in a direction I don’t want to be
Travelling toward a destination I just don’t
Want to go
But fate she plays a cruel card and where I
will end up She’s the only one that knows
love is like a
heavenly twinkling ocean..
love is like an
erratic soaring storm
love is like an
eternal wave singing..
love is like a
dry land boat confused.
pyar sumandar say beh zyadah ghera heh
love is even deeper than the ocean..
love is like hell..
amor es dolor y sufrimiento
love is sadness and suffering..


Within the refuges especially taking part in Shakti built cohesion between group members and
developed a potential source of peer support. The project highlighted the value of this kind of
activity, perhaps especially for women from the BME community where many individuals are
socially isolated and unable to access sources of support.

Quote from a project participant

“The Shakti project has helped me make new friends and that has helped my healing process.
The project has opened up doors for me and now I can talk more easily to people who I am not
emotionally involved with”.