Curated by Claudia DeMonte and Cecilia Mandrile, “The World is a Handkerchief” is an international collaborative project of 50 artists, featuring a collection of handkerchiefs which explore notions of homeland, family, displacement, and identity.

The concept of the project is rooted on the age-old Spanish idiom ‘el mundo es un pañuelo,’ or as we may say in English, ‘what a small world.’ It praises serendipitous encounters, moments of discovering personal connections in distant places or unexpected contexts. Celebrating connections, and willing to nurture the disappearing tradition of the printed handkerchief, Cecilia Mandrile and Claudia DeMonte invited their mentors, students, and peer artists to share visual contemplation or personal stories on the various notions of homeland. They created a limited edition 25 handkerchiefs each and asked each artist to produce their own handkerchief, offering their creations in exchange.

Handkerchiefs – the foldable, portable, simple squares of cotton – have accompanied people in celebrations and farewells in many cultures for centuries, offered bodily protection and coverage, and sustained expressions of political tenets and spiritual beliefs. In “The World is a Handkerchief,” handkerchiefs become vessels of memories and itinerant narratives; containers of emotions; translators of wounds, signals of ideological resistance. Each piece epitomises a soft space for visual statements, to be carried as a tangible memento. Artists employed printmaking, painting, embroidery, drawing, and collage to capture their wandering, often disappearing recollections of homeland, as well as reflections on displacement and identity.