This exhibition at the V&A brings together a variety of artefacts designed or appropriated for protest. As the introductory panel states ‘Many of the rights and freedom we enjoy today were won by disobedience’. The textiles were what interested me most and they included Chilean arpilleras, handkerchiefs, banners and crochet, all made by women using traditional female skills. The arpilleras are appliqued panels, originally made to protest against the Pinochet regime in Chile. They were sold to provide funds for the protest and were initially dismissed by the regime as unimportant women’s ‘folk art’.
Women have since been inspired to use this technique as a medium for protest and the image above shows Deborah Stockdale’s ‘Shannonwatch’ a panel celebrating the peace activists who monitor the use of Shannon airport by the American military to move prisoners. The figures wear burqas in solidarity with Afghani women caught up in the fighting.
The ‘Handkerchief for Roy’ was made by the collective Bordamos Por La Paz in Mexico, with the mother of Roy Rivera, to commemorate his ‘disappearance’. He was kidnapped when he was 18 and, despite paying a ransom, his mother never saw him again. The collective make and display handkerchiefs to honour victims of violence and to shame the government into protecting its citizens more effectively.
I thought these two stitched pieces were moving examples of the way in which stitching can give women a voice and that by using their traditional domestic skills women can bring a particularly female perspective to 'disobedience'.