On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. As soon as we heard that the carelessly constructed factory crumbled and killed over a thousand of the mostly poor, mostly female garment workers who labored inside it, we thought of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire of 1911. The fire in this New York City garment factory, sparked by terrible working conditions and unregulated building codes, killed nearly two hundred mostly young, poor, female immigrant garment workers. Connections between the two events ignited our horror and imaginations. Rachel created visual art; Alison wrote poetry.
When we saw each other’s work, we wondered what would happen if we collaborated, weaving our respective media: visual art, social engagement, poetry and storytelling; into a project that would delve deeply into connections between the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and the Rana Plaza disaster. How might our lives be intertwined with the history and ramifications of both events? We have decided to find out.
We are now collaborating on a project: “The Price of Our Clothes.” With this project we seek to engage American consumers about the ways in which we’re tied to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and the garment workers in Bangladesh, and how we might be able to support those workers. This blog will chronicle our process. We invite friends and colleagues to comment on and contribute to the collaboration as it unfolds. Your involvement is important to us.
About the trip:
We’ve been researching both events on-line and in print, but in February, 2015, we will be traveling in Dhaka, Bangladesh to see, hear, smell, feel, touch and taste the lives of the garment workers there. We received a grant from the Rimon Foundation to do this research and will arrive in Dhaka on February 4th. During our two-week stay, we plan to visit Rana Plaza, interview survivors and families of victims of the factory collapse, NGOs helping these survivors and families, Dhaka garment workers, factory owners, garment workers union representatives and lawyers, and reporters who covered the collapse and the lives of garment workers. We will also explore what alternative work opportunities might be available to Dhaka’s garment workers.
Have you traveled to Bangladesh? Do you have friends there who you would like us to meet? Do you have questions about the garment industry that you feel are important to ask? Please let us know!
Next up on the blog:
Look for individual posts from us that delve more deeply into our artwork and writing as well as our travels and work together.