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Colorful Arpilleras, A Celebration of Life
Traditional hand stitching technique that once served to communicate stories of pain and abuse evolves into an elaborate art sought after in the US.
By: Inca Kids
All the Arpilleras tell stories, harvesting potatoes, tending llamas and sheep, weddings, and in the past, terrible stories of pain and abuse. Many times, Chilean and Peruvian women communicated what had happened to them or their families. Tales of murdered, missing or tortured loved ones by terrorism or dictatorship regimes were depicted in many Arpilleras of that time. There are also many recollections of stories during the Pinochet era when women visiting their relatives in prisons would use the tapestries to carry messages to the political prisoners.
After the decline in terrorism in Peru, many women that had fled their towns, established their families (or what was left of them) in Lima and continued creating “Arpilleras”
Nowadays, small groups of women in their communities, working in cooperatives, maintain this art alive by hand stitching tapestries and other items such as storybooks and backpacks. Some specialized retailers such as Inca Kids, a fair trade project working with skilled artisans from Peru, offer their products online and in boutique stores in cities across the country (http://www.incakids.org)
Women are usually represented in bold hues, to show their strength, optimism and hope.
More and more this technique is reaching the homes of American citizens, Arpillera tapestries are now very sought after, with customers paying thousands of dollars for a specific story. Well known authors, such as Chilean Marjorie Agosin have private collections that have been displayed here in the US. Even some schools, like Concord in North Carolina, have undertaken Arpillera projects with their Elementary School students.
So, what served as a form of expression for those that could not communicate in other ways has now evolved into pieces of art that record events, both tragic and joyful, in the lives of their creators.
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About Inca Kids:
Fair Trade project working directly with skilled Peruvian artisans offering Peruvian art, alpaca accessories, artisan toys and decor.