Borderline Women’s Collective, Gallery and Tea Garden, located in Mae Sot, Thailand began with three women’s organisations seeking to establish a shared marketing space for women from Burma and living along the Thai-Burma border to sell their hand made items. The women’s groups also hoped that by having a collectively managed market they would build their capacity for running income generation projects with the communities with which they work. In May 2004, the Borderline Women’s Collective opened.
Eventually artist friends were encouraged to use the space to market their work. It was during this time that a more professional gallery space was created which led to exhibitions highlighting the work of an artist or a group of artists. The first exhibition took place in October 2004, with Saw Cucil’s My Life-My State exhibition.
The Borderline also developed an intern programme where interns worked with the Borderline Manager in 3-4 month periods to learn about handicrafts and shop and gallery management. During this time the Tavoy Women’s Union (TWU) and the Lahu Women’s Organisation (LWO) became members of the Women’s Collective and began to market their handicrafts, serve as part of the management team and have interns. Eventually the internship programme was expanded to have an intern in the Women’s Collective and an intern in the Gallery.
During the latter half of 2005, there was a workshop for the women’s groups to learn more about product design and for artists to learn how to develop biographies, exhibition statements and hang their work in a professional manner. In 2006, there was a decision to have art/culture events on the first Thursday of each month for the communities of Mae Sot. Frequently an artist exhibits but there are plans for dancers and film pieces as well.
In March 2006, the Tea Garden opened, offering foods from around the border region in a quiet setting. The Tea Shop currently offers cooking classes and has developed a cookbook with foods from different regions of Burma.
The Women’s Collective continues to provide an important market for the women’s groups and more community groups such as the Mae Tao Clinic are marketing items through the shop. Current members of the Women’s Collective are Chimmuwa – Tak Border Child Assistance Foundation (TBCAF), Chin Women Group (CWG), Community Forest Support Group (CFSG), English Speaking Course (ESC), Kachin Women Association of Thailand (KWAT), Karen Women’s Organisation (KWO), Lahu Women’s Organisation (LWO), Mon Women Organisation (MWO), United Lahu Youth Organisation (ULYO), and Women Development Group (WDG). SWAN and SAW are also offering some of their items at the Borderline.
The Borderline Management Committee is involved in policy development and all decision making for the Borderline. Representatives from each Woman’s Organization in the Collective serve on the Management Committee. Monthly meetings are held to help promote creative feedback and marketing strategies.
The Art Committee, comprised of artists, artist advisors and the Borderline Gallery Curator is involved in developing and implementing Gallery policies and procedures. The Art committee makes decisions about art activities, organizes exhibitions and rotates hanging works in the Gallery collection.
Borderline activities fall into the following four main areas: