Sunday, May 26, 2024

Borderland Threads

Crafting narratives with Colombian migrant women in Antofagasta, Chile

Borderland Threads weaves stories between countries and cultures. The 11 artists whose arpilleras and testimonies are presented here are Colombian women migrants living in Antofagasta. Through a series of intensive workshops over four months in 2022, they worked alongside a small team of academics and artists to produce these narrative artworks.

About the project

Borderland Threads weaves stories between countries and cultures. The 11 artists whose arpilleras and testimonies are presented here are Colombian women migrants living in Antofagasta. Through a series of intensive workshops over four months in 2022, they worked alongside a small team of academics and artists to produce these narrative artworks.

While there are strong textile-making and embroidery traditions throughout Latin America, including in Colombia, the arpillera in the format represented in this exhibition is uniquely Chilean. Just like the Chilean arpilleras, these arpilleras tell the stories of their authors’ lives. They are made of scraps of fabric, embroidered with contrasting threads, and incorporate dolls that represent human figures.

The style of arpillera on display here was developed during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), but has its roots in earlier work, including that of the Isla Negra embroiderers and that of artist Violeta Parra. During the dictatorship, a small group of female relatives of the detained and disappeared began making arpilleras to document their experiences and their pain. The art form was shared with other women, many of whom lived in informal settlements. They used the arpilleras to record military repression and daily life during the dictatorship.

Many of the works produced during the dictatorship were smuggled out of Chile and sold internationally to raise awareness about the human rights abuses that were occurring in the country. The arpillera thus became a powerful symbol of women’s resistance. This cross-border legacy of resistance, solidarity, and sharing has inspired the project.

We invite you to think about these arpilleras in contrast to maps generated by traditional cartography. Traditional cartography is a tool generally associated with repressive and expansionist forces. In contrast, the arpilleras, with their landscapes and figures, map (represent) silenced narratives. They are, in other words, living counter-maps, which in this case symbolize the courage, resilience, humor, and joy of their authors despite the difficulties they have experienced. The testimonies that accompany the arpilleras are the words that the authors have decided to share.

Team

Megan Ryburn: PhD in Geography, Assistant Professor at Institute of International Studies, Universidad de Chile, Visiting Fellow, London School of Economics Department of Geography and Environment

Daniela Cobos: PhD in Arts Education, Textile Artist, Academic Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Universidad de Chile

Claudia Montoya: Social Worker, artisan and textile artist

Alice Volpi: Graphic designer and animator

Acknowledgements
Gareth Jones: PhD in Geography, Professor of Urban Geography, London School of Economics
Dorotea López Giral: PhD in Social Sciences, Director Instituto de Estudios Internacionales, Universidad de Chile
Valentina Díaz Leyton: Regional Director Servicio Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural Antofagasta
Rebecca Wilson: Managing Editor, Latin America Bureau

For me, the project is a dream come true, and represents freedom. The project generated cultural reunion, a strong sense of welcoming, empathy, and great teamwork. It was a wonderful thing that we could all could be in unity and achieve this objective and tell our stories.For me, the project is a dream come true, and represents freedom. The project generated cultural reunion, a strong sense of welcoming, empathy, and great teamwork. It was a wonderful thing that we could all could be in unity and achieve this objective and tell our stories.

Idalia Rivera

Leader of Génesis II Camp Antofagasta and Regional Councillor for Antofagasta

Para mí, el proyecto significa sueños hecho realidad, y libertad. El proyecto hizo un reencuentro cultural, mucho acogimiento, empatía, y un gran trabajo en equipo, que fue lo maravilloso que todas pudimos estar en unidad y lograr el objetivo y contar nuestras historias.

Idalia Rivera

Dirigenta Campamento Génesis II Antofagasta, Consejera Regional Antofagasta

Principal funding: British Academy Small Grant SG2122\211089
Additional funding: London School of Economics Latin America and Caribbean Centre; Universidad de Chile Instituto de Estudios Internacionales; Universidad de Chile Vicerrectoría de Extensión y Comunicaciones
Institutional support: London School of Economics; Universidad de Chile; Servicio Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural
Header artwork: Alice Volpi