Meet Mahawa Keita, Winner of 2021's Textile Design Creative Spirit Award

The L6 Textile Design End of Year Awards are always a great time to recognise and celebrate the talents of our many creative students. This years’ deserving winner of the 2021 Creative Spirit Award went to Mahawa Keita, a unanimous decision by the BA (Hons) Textile Design academic staff team.

It was in recognition of her brave and ambitious final project, My Astute Mother, work that shines a spotlight on issues surrounding human rights, motherhood and resilience in a highly personal and impactful way. Mahawa joined the course as a mature direct entry student into Level 5.

“I remember my first visit to BCU, Zoë, one of the Lecturers, noticed my excitement in seeing the workshops, especially the Constructed Textile and Embroidery rooms. They felt like my home. That’s how I fell for the whole textile area. I got accepted and a genius plan was created for me to catch up on my writing and technical skills without missing anything in my level 5. Tutors and technicians got on board to make sure I learnt all that I needed to know."

Mahawa soon fell in love with all things weave and knit. With such a generous and keen approach, and with the support of the BCU Textile Design community around her, Mahawa was soon taking advantage of the many brilliant workshop facilities and technical learning opportunities to advance her understanding and passion for the constructed textile discipline. Interested in our Craft and Culture industry sector briefs, she explored the expressive potential of using textiles within artistic contexts.

Like many of our students this year, Mahawa’s personal experiences and passions have become a source of inspiration for her work, along with a strong focus on responsible design. Mahawa’s, dissertation explored why West African textile designers, makers and artists are underrepresented in the global textile industry. This research fuelled a burning desire to tell the story of ‘My Astute Mother’ - a powerful and compelling example of strength overcoming adversity.

“My final major project is inspired by my mother Najankey Barrow and my connection to her. The pieces of artwork I have created narrate the story of her life, re-exploring the journey I shared with my mother, looking at what connects us, and her impact on the family and her community. The journeys taken by yarn, structure, texture and colour in this body of work, express the deep emotions held within this highly personal narrative. I welcome you to my mom...”

As ideas grew so did her ambition to create large scale gallery pieces. With the weave workshop rug-gun frame providing an anchor point, she was able to grow her wonderful knotted constructional pieces – proving quite a talking point for those passing the weave workshop on the third floor of Parkside! Mahawa presented her contemporary craft outcomes for a gallery audience with a poetic strength that speaks for itself.

The progress Mahawa has made since joining us in the second year is significant and the timely relevance of the issues discussed within her body of work, makes this work that is deserved of the Creative Spirit Award 2021.

“Mahawa’s project is distinctive and highly personal, it is work about resilience that asks us to reflect on idea of community and consider the values necessary for a sustainable future. It is an excellent example of a student who has found their voice and the practical language of materials and craftsmanship with which to express themselves. Our course is recognised for the diversity of work that is achieved. Mahawa is but one within an exciting cohort of graduating designers this year, all of who have original and distinctive perspectives and skills to offer. We wish all of them every success.” 

- Zoë Hillyard, Acting Course Leader

Looking forward, Mahawa aims to continue developing contemporary gallery pieces which raise issues that affect community and environment, and promotes culture through hand craftsmanship. The Textiles team wish her every success.

Interested to see more of Mahawa’s work?

Website | Inspired Festival | Instagram

More about BA (Hons) Textile Design is available here:

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