“Arpillera” in English loosely translates to burlap- descriptive of the common substrate fabric on which colorful, narrative compositions, native to Chile, are appliquéd.
However bright and lyrical these compositions may be, the legacy of Chilean Arpilleras is one of politics, deeply personal story, and lived trauma.
The practice of Arpilleras was established in Chile in the 70s, during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. In those trying times, human rights violations were a daily occurrence. Many families knew torture, illegal detentions, and murders first hand. To this day, there are families searching for the remains of their parents, spouses, and children.
As we see time and time again, deep suffering can be the seed of profound resilience. An organization called the Vicaría de la Solidaridad, began to provide moral and legal support, primarily to female relatives of victims of abuse, detainees, and missing people. These women spent much of their time in offices, waiting for information from their relatives. It was there, under the guidance of a leader named Valentina Bonne, where the first Arpillera workshop began. With very few materials, they began to embroider and transfer their pain, anguish, and grief to the fabric. Their needle and thread told their stories.
These textiles acted as newspapers, eventually traveling across borders and opening the public eye to the human right violations taking place throughout the country. The Arpilleras were considered subversive material, forcing the women who made them to embroider in secret. Few Arpilleras were signed, in an effort to protect the identity of the makers.
In addition to their intense political history, the making of an Arpillera offers the embroiderer a chance to join this fabric legacy and share one's own personal story. Cathartic and expansive, this practice bonds makers together, while empowering them to translate lived experience into art.
Join Scarlett Yàvar Garcia, as she highlights the importance of Arpilleras throughout Chilean history, explores the ways in which these textiles have been cast aside as “women’s work” despite their profound social impact, and encourages folks from all backgrounds to engage in this form of storytelling.
“It is in our hands, in our needles and threads, that the history of these women is not lost.” – Scarlett Yàvar Garcia”
BLUE, The TATTER Textile Library is located in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Serving as both an interactive, ongoing art-installation as well as an academic research library, BLUE is an ever-growing home to 6,000 books, journals, exhibition catalogs, and objects that examine and celebrate the global history, traditions, makers, craft and beauty of textiles.
505 Carroll Street Suite #2B Brooklyn, NY 11215
October 14th, 2023 | 12 pm - 4 pm ET
Ticket includes all necessary materials. Students will leave the workshop with a deep understanding of the history of Chilean Arpilleras, new stitching techniques to experiment with, and a started project of their own.
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