Date: 2003
Owner: Unknown Owner
Source Type: Images


Like textiles that reproduce and perpetuate traditional Andean iconography, this modern example of an arpillera, a textile made by stitching leftover cloth onto a cotton backing, is also a visual medium for representing indigenous culture. The patchwork design shows protestors outside of the ministry of education holding banners promoting a huelga, a term for popular social protest. This is a strike scene, replete with police violence, women fainting, and solidarity amongst the citizenry (Heckman 2003).

Although this piece is far from subtle in its political message, Andean groups have been known to include subversive clues within textiles, a code--like that of khipus-- that can only be "read" by those in the know. For example, "four-part" designs are associated with the drawing and quartering of the leader of a rebellion against the Spanish in 1781, Tupac Amaru II. As one of the results of the rebellion, the Spanish banned Andean Indians from weaving traditional patterns into their textiles.

Arpilleras took on new significance in the late twentieth century when military dictators waged brutal "dirty wars" against their own populations. Women in Chile and Peru known as arpilleristas used this medium to express their outrage with the governments that "disappeared" thousands of people while the quilting circles themselves were a social support network in which women could organize their protests and assuage each other's losses. Their quilts are often a stark juxtaposition of dark, brutal scenes portrayed with brilliant colors--the eventual triumph of hope over oppression (Agossin 1996).

Reference:Agosin, Marjorie. Tapestries of Hope, Threads of Love: The Arpillera Movement in Chile, 1974-1994. Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press, 1996.

Heckman, Andrea M. Woven Stories: Andean Textiles and Rituals. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2003.

CITATION: Photograph by Jon Hedlund