Arpillera Doll Exhibition
This Arpillera Doll Exhibition curated by Conflict Textiles has emerged from the Online Exhibition Embracing Human Rights: Conflict Textiles’ Journey”. It evolved from an open invitation issued from the Associated Activities for all ages section section “Make your own arpillera doll”. To augment the process, we issued the invitation to arpilleristas/makers whose pieces featured in the exhibition, to collectors who lent us pieces, to those who came to the exhibition launch on 7th March and to a wider cohort of people closely connected to Conflict Textiles.
Their response to the brief – to create an arpillera doll connected to one of the exhibition pieces – has yielded rich outcomes. Makers from a host of countries – from first time sewers to experienced arpilleristas - using their scraps of fabric, have created dolls of every shape, size and hue, dolls who embody a vast range of actions and emotions and who traverse past, present and future. As the dolls took shape, as their creators gave them colour, action, purpose and voice, they, in turn embodied the messages of their makers and promoted a depth of reflection. Uninvited, the makers have passed on these rich reflections to us, the core of which we present to share with you, the viewer.
Above all, these dolls confront us with the glaring gap between the rights articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the lived experiences of many human beings, over 70 years later. May the spirit of these dolls and their makers prompt and embolden us to confront Human Rights abuses and to embed a culture of Human Rights within our own community and globally.
Shane Finan, Ireland
Marcha de las mujeres de los mineros is the main piece that I keep thinking about - the importance of togetherness and community has particularly stuck in my memory. One arm of my doll is bent so that it can join with another at any time. I was also thinking of my grandfather, who did not disappear but is lost to me.
Amy Bunce, Ireland
I was thinking of the other people who made POSAR FIL A L'AGULLA . I wanted to show the activity of making.
Shane Finan and Amy Bunce, Ireland
Our dolls may not relate to either piece. They are photographed in our garden amongst the bushes, escaping to another place. Drawing from Judith Butler's latest book “The Force of Nonviolence: The Ethical in the Political”, I wanted this to remind us that violence exists everywhere and against all things, including people and the natural world.
Ana Zlatkes, Argentina
I made this piece with inspiration from No más contaminación / No more pollution. The doll reflects inequality as depicted in the original arpillera. The poorer people in the shantytown have to find ways to look after themselves as the government pays little attention if it does not affect the middle and upper classes.
Breege Doherty, Ireland
This doll was inspired by 2016 Starvation in Zimbabwe. The fact that I researched and wrote captions for two Zimbabwean arpilleras recently prompted me to pick this piece. Reading an Aljazeera report on the impact of the Coronavirus in Zimbabwe also stuck with me. I wanted to give this woman some bright clothing – a contrast to the brown, drought scorched earth. I have given her a mask to signify that her community is now coping with Coronavirus in addition to recurring food insecurity.
Carolina Vega, Chile
It is difficult to choose an arpillera that resonates with these dolls...they are all interconnected. I feel my dolls are connected with those made by Ana Zlatkes, particularly Ausencias - Presencias 2 / Absences – Presences 2. Chile and Argentina are twinned together by the same pain; Latin Americans have suffered simultaneous dictatorships that has affected all of our lives.
The handkerchiefs with which the mothers and grandmothers cover their heads are the handkerchiefs with which our mothers dance cueca sola. It evokes affection, the loved one and the lost gesture. Everywhere women look relentlessly for the remains of an absence that becomes presence to remind us of their names, their scent and the creases of their clothing. The banner the dolls hold reads "Where are they?"
Carolina Vega, Chile
Carolina Vega made these dolls to accompany her at her PhD presentation in Valdivia Chile.
Lisa Garlock, USA
My doll was inspired by No más contaminación / No more pollution. This resonated with me because of the environmental aspect, and what is happening with the coronavirus pandemic. A few years ago I did a piece about emerging diseases reflecting that humans are responsible for causing them to proliferate due to environmental degradation, encroachment into wild places and emissions that are warming the planet. However, humans can also do something about it. The No más …arpillera shows women taking to the streets in protest back in the 1980s; almost 40 year later we still need to be on the streets protesting. It is fitting to make my doll wearing a face mask, not only in solidarity with those protesting against pollution, but also representing how today we are required to wear face masks to protect against COVID 19. My figure holds a placard with the message “LA GENTE UNIDA / PEOPLE UNITED”. It is a hopeful message, and being in a pandemic makes it all the more salient.
Kyra Reynolds, Northern Ireland
My doll was inspired by the arpillera 2016 Starvation in Zimbabwe. The doll reflects the misery that is brought about when the most basic of Human Rights - water and food - are not met.
Deborah Stockdale, Ireland
My doll was inspired by the arpillera, La Cueca Sola / Dancing Cueca alone. I call my doll Carmen.
Fiona Clark, Northern Ireland
My doll is inspired by the arpillera Escuelita de Otavalo / Otavalo Primary School. I haven't named my doll but liked the fact that her hair didn't quite fit into the norm of the other characters in this piece.
My favourite arpillera is Vida en Nuestra Población / Life in Our Poor Neighbourhood. I wanted to make a doll for it. This picture shows me creating the doll.
Liliana Adragna, Argentina
Yesterday I made my ceramic doll [relating to Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Ahora y Siempre Presentes / Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Now and Always Present]. You will see she looks worried, as I am, in the present times with coronavirus matters, as I cannot visit my 94 year old mother.
Liliana Adragna, Argentina
My doll seated, clay pot in hand, with a ceramic pottery bowl at her feet.
Janet Wilkinson, England
My doll is based on Ausencias - Presencias 2 / Absences – Presences 2. I enjoyed making it and had lots of thoughts for the grandmothers.
Janet Wilkinson, England
Thinking of their long walks, Janet made comfortable walking boots for this portrayed grandmother.
Irene MacWilliam, Northern Ireland
Thinking with empathy of all arpilleristas who told their sad stories with scraps of materials.
Joanne Quigley, Ireland
My dolls are inspired by three arpilleras: Ausencias - Presencias 2 / Absences – Presences 2; Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Ahora y Siempre Presentes / Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Now and Always Present, and Nos hacen falta / We miss them.
In these pieces there are so many missing mothers who are missing children they never got to hold. So many children are missing their mothers and then their families are missing them both. They are very present ghosts.
Joanne Quigley, Ireland
My ghost doll has no arms as she never gets to hold the child she carries inside her.
Máiréad Collins, Ireland
I’ve picked the arpillera En el lado “bueno” de la valla 2 / On the “Good" Side of the Fence 2 as I've spent the last almost seven years working on displacement crises in the Middle East. The words "IDP" and "refugee" are important descriptors, but also dehumanising. It is remarkable how someone is quickly stripped of everything in the eyes of the general public, the security forces, the government and INGOs once they are displaced. I often think back to a conversation with a family of Palestinian Syrian refugees. They reminisced about their homes in Syria, how happy they were and the perfection in the simplicity of everyday things. It is a constant reminder of how quickly it can all be pulled from under a person through no fault of their own.
My doll, with a bag with sheep’s wool and lavender and hair from our sofa throw, has a face of many colours. She is any of us. I've called her "Kitty", thinking of the Irish fictional travelling storyteller character "Kitty the Hare" - a 'woman of the roads'. I loved 'her stories' in the “Ireland's Own” magazine when I was a child.
Eileen Harrisson, Wales
My doll, I named Maria Chiara, relates to Mi Guernica / My Gernika by Edurne Mestraitua. I found this very moving, also reading the story behind the arpillera. I have photographed my little doll against the wood of a table.
Andrea Carolina Bello Tocancipa, Colombia
This doll connects to Retorno / Return, a textile related to the Mampujan community's internal forced displacement. In Colombia, many communities and inhabitants have had to leave their land due to violence; violence that has shaken every corner of the country.
This doll has purple skin signifying, that in Colombia, no matter the region or ethnic group, violence has affected every territory, obliging their inhabitants to abandon them. She is dressed in black as she is mourning for the land; the land they have worked, are rooted in and that has been taken away.
Juan Nicolas Cardona, Colombia
This rag doll embodies the character “La Llorona”, one of the most famous oral legends of Latin American folklore. It concerns a wailing woman who emerges to remind the oppressor that death is not the end; that where he sits at ease, she will always be willing to torment him in his nightmares.
This dead wailing woman connects to the Legacy of Tyrants/ El legado de los tiranos, through her anger and love of freedom. To think that tyrants have the last word is futile; they cannot triumph so easily.
Pamela Luque, Chile / Ireland
I did this little doll thinking about the dichotomy that students are faced with as they grow up. They have to choose between seeing reality or continue living in a fantasy. This student is covering her mouth, either because she is shocked or because she has to choose [her direction] for her adult life.
I connected this doll to my own arpillera: 'Paro de los estudiantes' chilenos 2 / Chilean students' strike 2.
Gillian Robinson, Northern Ireland
To my amazement I have responded to your invitation to make a doll. It is supposed to be a homeless man. The homeless have been on my mind so much during this pandemic but of course they are also at risk during conflict. The textile that I think this links to is No tenemos acceso a los servicios públicos / We have no access to public services. My thinking about the homeless was also impacted by the fact that yesterday Tory (my daughter) who is a physiotherapist in England had to go out on an environmental visit to see a flat where a homeless man was going to be sent to. She said “I have genuinely never seen anything more depressing in all my life – and never felt more privileged!” With no sewing skills I’m disappointed that I couldn’t get more expression on his face. I photographed him outside sitting on an old blanket with no home to go to.
Eva Gonzalez, Northern Ireland
I picked POSAR FIL A L'AGULLA / Hands On: An arpillera made out of commitment as it depicts daily life. My doll was made some time ago using materials I had/borrowed while far from home. It was not made to depict anyone in particular, just to show I was thinking of my Gran. Especially in times like now, I think the idea of finding happiness and worth in the ordinary everyday is extraordinary, and it shows the strength of people, both as individuals struggling on, and as a community looking out for each other.
Kyra Reynolds, Northern Ireland
My doll was inspired by the arpillera En el lado “bueno” de la valla 2 / On the “Good" Side of the Fence 2 due to the common themes of displacement and restrictions on movement.
In 2017 I finished my PhD in the Israeli Palestinian conflict, having carried out fieldwork in the region. In 1948, Israeli uprooted Palestinian families from their homes inside what is now ‘Israel proper’ and most haven’t been able to return. Since then, displaced Palestinians have faced ongoing restrictions on their movement including checkpoints, ID policies using outdated laws and walls/fences. Yet during my PhD I discovered that planting olive trees was a major form of resistance by Palestinian people against the occupation. By planting trees, they are ‘rooting’ themselves in the land and saying, ‘I am here to stay’.
This doll laments the loss of her ancestral home in 1948 and the more recent Israeli destruction of her olive trees (which are of major cultural and economic significance to Palestinians). However she has an olive tree sapling that she is about to plant as an act of resistance to the attempted ethnic cleansing.
Rachael Garrett & Evan Marshall, Northern Ireland
I wanted to respond to the Legacy of Tyrants arpillera, the theme of genocide and some of the thoughts I had as I made my way around the exhibition at the launch…
We have two dolls joined together, mirror images of each other and with mirror faces.I went with the mirror theme as I was thinking of how those who persecute and kill try to dehumanise people and often do so by projecting their worst fears and fantasies onto others, while at the same time denying our common humanity. A quote by my favourite author, Terry Pratchett “Evil begins when you start to treat people as things”, has stuck in my mind since reading it recently.
The two dolls are joined together because I was also thinking (as a general response to the entire exhibition) that most people don't like to think of the suffering and injustice across the world as it’s not happening on their doorstep - out of sight out of mind. I think there is a real cost to such violence which everyone feels eventually. In reality we are all connected and we should all try to help and care for others - if we did so things would be better.
Isabel Gonzalez, Colombia
With joy I send this woman made of thread and needle. She connects to Ausencias - Presencias 2 / Absences – Presences 2. She could well be me walking and following the mothers and grandmothers around the Plaza de Mayo obelisk, in silence and admiration. On her head she wears a green scarf, which represents the struggle that we - the women in Latin America - are having at present. She walks proudly and recognizes herself as a daughter who has inherited the strength and courage to demand, denounce and request justice under the motto “Sexual education to decide, contraceptives so as not to abort, legal abortion so as not to die”. The scarf, today green, represents the struggles of the new generations that do not forget the roots that nourish and inspire them.
Manoli Gonzalez, Badalona, Cataluña
My doll is linked to La Cueca Sola / Dancing Cueca alone. When I heard about the tradition of Cueca Sola, I liked it very much. When the women dance it alone, it moves me much more. In many ways when “dancing” life, many women have to dance alone and carry the burden and family problems. But they do not stop dancing; they dance with more strength and courage.
Stefania Gualberti, Northern Ireland (from Italy)
I made a dreamy woman who looks like she dressed up to go somewhere that she knows won't be able to go to.
Emma Boeri, Northern Ireland
My doll resembles my best friend in school, Sahara. I haven't seen her since mid March, although we talked at the phone twice to catch up.
Stephania and Emma, mother and daughter, Northern Ireland
Here, our two dolls are pictured together. We enjoyed the process and it was quite revealing. Our dolls link to three arpilleras: Escuelita de Otavalo / Otavalo Primary School; Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Ahora y Siempre Presentes / Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Now and Always Present and Vida en Nuestra Población / Life in Our Poor Neighbourhood.
Pilar López , Sant Roc in Badalona, Cataluña
My doll is connected to Peace Quilt - Common Loss. From the 3161 pieces of torn red scraps of material portrait in this quilt, at least one has been transformed into a person. I do this so that we do not forget the victims of conflict; the conflict in Northern Ireland and the various conflicts that affect other countries.
Fina Niubó, Sant Roc, Badalona, Cataluña
I have connected my piece to Libertad a los presos politicos / Freedom for the political prisoners. There are political prisoners in Spain in 2020.
Mònica Moro Mesa, Badalona, Catalonia
My doll is connected to 2016 Starvation in Zimbabwe. Drought and hunger come together in Africa, and, as it is frequent news, it is underrepresented in the traditionally rich countries of old Europe. When viewing this arpillera my thoughts have flown to Senegal. This country in Africa suffers at present high temperatures, drought and coronavirus and it is very tough for very many people there. The land, especially in the south, is extremely dry, waiting for the rains that will take long to come. The pandemic has them on the alert and it seems contained. It is the month of Ramadan and people silently look into the sky thinking of tourism and work that will not come. Hunger is in sight.
My doll is an African woman with a rice sack, which is essential to her survival. When I meet Dianeba in Ibel (a village in Senegal, which our group is linked with and whose cards and arpilleras we promote)she tells me: “Have you any idea of the suffering of a mother who has not even a handful of rice to feed her child?”
Sarah Carson, Northern Ireland
My doll was inspired by the arpillera POSAR FIL A L'AGULLA / Hands On: An arpillera made out of commitment. The commitment to children and a mother and child group resonated with me as I had my first baby, Jack, in December 2019. I was very lucky to have the incredible support of my family at this time and the chance to go to a lovely mother and baby class where I met other mothers who are now friends. This was all cut short with the current COVID 19 pandemic, which has made me think about all those mothers having babies during lockdown. How difficult they must be finding it, especially in those early intense weeks adjusting to a newborn. I am also thinking of all the grannies, granddads, aunties and uncles who haven’t been able to meet or cuddle the new arrivals.
So, my doll, holding a baby, represents these mothers and all new mothers living in these times.
Also related to the lockdown, my doll is made from clothes that I cleared out to recycle or give to charity. I also used a small piece of fabric from one of Jack’s first babygrows.
Tere Chad, Chile / UK
I made my doll from old tights and scraps of materials from some sculptures. I connect her to La Cueca Sola / Dancing Cueca alone and Vida en Nuestra Población / Life in Our Poor Neighbourhood. I have named her Dorothea Quarantine.
Dorothea is a street dancer who is unemployed at the moment because of the COVID 19 pandemic. Dorothea has been made to honour all the street artists and informal workers who are going to be most affected with the economic recession we will face. Dorothea is already prepared with her face mask to go back to the streets when it is safe.
Mary Ryan, Ireland
My doll, whom I have named Nanny, is based on Ausencias - Presencias 2 / Absences – Presences 2. I have always felt disappearance to be a very cruel violation of rights. This doll is a tribute to the courage and tenacity of the Argentinean grandmothers who refuse to give up on their beloved ones. It is also closer to home, thinking of my children's grandmother, and my siblings and mother, all of whom are devoted and much cherished grandmothers, all finding it very difficult not currently seeing their grandchildren due to the Coronavirus. For them, hopefully the separation will be only temporary, whereas that is not the case for the grandmothers in Argentina.
The handkerchief on which Nanny is photographed belonged to one of the grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo and was added by Roberta Bacic. It is so poignant, and so carefully and beautifully done. All of a sudden the doll has so much more significance. We know grandmothers can do all sorts of amazing things and carry a heavy load at times.
Heidi Drahota, Germany
This doll was inspired by my own arpillera Landmines. His name is Ameen Hashim, named after a student from my very last class. Ameen was an 11 year old Kurd from Mosul who was very traumatized. He was part of the Landmines football team. From the front he appears fine.
Heidi Drahota, Germany
His injuries can be seen on his back. The soul is badly wounded and it is difficult for him to hold his body together. With a safety pin he pulls himself together; this also protects him from a deep sleep every night.
Jamie Steele, Northern Ireland
“My little house is the most beautiful in the world.” These words written on the blackboard within the piece ESCUELITA de Otavalo / Otavalo Primary School were the inspiration for my Arpillera dolls. During this time of the COVID 19 pandemic, where schools have been closed and quarantine has forced people to stay in and in some cases work from home, this arpillera has reminded me of the importance of home and the family we share it with. It has made me think about the need to always be going places, always rushing, always thinking of ways to amuse the children when in fact we have everything we need within our own home; even the ability to home school so they don’t miss out on education.
Our home has become our own little world and has given us the time and resources to spend together as a family. My Arpillera dolls therefore represent my husband, children and myself, as we spend our time together; time which, with work and childcare we wouldn’t normally have.
The fabric used represents our home, a farm in the countryside.
Caroline Kuyper, Ireland
My doll reflects the grief that many people experience at present unable to be together. For some it’s because their loved ones have died due to COVID 19, war, conflict, injustice, violence, climate disasters or pollution. Some can't be together because of restrictions on travel due to COVID 19, immigration policies or political repression.
Many COVID victims died so alone, without the comforting presence of a beloved’s presence in the room.
My doll wears a black shroud over a red skirt & white blouse. The white blouse was inspired by La Cueca Sola / Dancing Cueca alone. The red scarf and skirt are little off cuts from my XR Red Brigade outfit - linking climate justice to human rights. The doll is not a reflection of one particular arpillera, but more a synthesis of what the collection evoked in me at this time, permeated by the COVID 19 pandemic; the loss of biodiversity, looming climate chaos and the lack of human rights globally.
Caroline Kuyper, Ireland
My doll, whom I call Dolores, fits in the palm of my hand. I have also photographed her with a ''bleeding heart'', flower from my garden. This matched the emotion: so many hearts are bleeding, so much grief and loss, for so many reasons.
Shari Eppel, Zimbabwe
Here is the arpillera doll that I made this morning - it is inspired by Deborah Stockdale's arpilleraThey Fell like Stars from the Sky / Cayeron del cielo como estrellas. This is so moving, and as I have been to Argentina several times and I know this history. It is also such an accomplished and beautiful work. Instead of plummeting to earth, my doll has become a star and is flying upwards into the sky - up towards another star (mirror) overhead, and her clothes also have little mirrors.
Shari Eppel, Zimbabwe
This photo shows people falling from the sky, from a section of Deborah’s arpillera.
Leandro Gallardo, Osorno, Chile
My arpillera doll represents women workers, peasants, Mapuche and those in any other kind of labour activity. I specifically refer to the period since the protest movement in Chile started on 18th October 2019. I link it to Marcha de las mujeres de los mineros / March of the miners' wives, daughters and sisters from Peru, Paro de los estudiantes' chilenos 2 / Chilean students' strike 2, No más contaminación / No more pollution.
Hundreds of people have lost their eyes due to rubber bullets shot by the armed forces during protests, called “social explosion”. These protests demand constitutional changes that include respect for human rights. Using a mask or handkerchief is key when demonstrating due to the use of teargas by police.
Now it is also required due to COVID 19. My doll has only one hand to struggle; the other has been cut off due to unemployment, massive sacking of labourers and the impossibility of selling produce in the streets. The feet are re-emerging, walking towards social change once the pandemic decreases and they can maintain their struggle, pushing towards a new constitution written by the people of Chile.
Eleonora Gatto, Italy / Lebanon
This is the first doll I ever made. It took me some time but I'm quite satisfied!
My doll is inspired by Cimarrón / Runaway slave. This arpillera made me think about the existing contemporary forms of slavery, in particular, the exploitation of the African migrant workers in the agriculture sector in Southern Italy. They endure extreme levels of labour exploitation, coercion, as well as inhumane living conditions in derelict farmhouses and makeshift camps. It’s thanks to their sweat and hard work that food reaches our table. They should be legalized and freed from their status of invisible workers.
Slavery and colonialism are not phenomena belonging to the past. These workers are still enslaved by the white men. Slavery and colonialism never really ended. I’m Italian, usually based in Lebanon, currently stuck in Italy due to the COVID 19 lockdown.
Rosa Borrás, Puebla, Mexico
This doll responds to POSAR FIL A L'AGULLA / Hands On: An arpillera made out of commitment because it's a doll full of life, just like the characters in this beautiful arpillera. It is also because Ateneu Sant Roc is a place of hope where people flourish. The back is made from a piece of my daughter's old jeans and the front is from new cloth, onto which I printed ad-hoc prepared linoleum. It is hand stitched on the outside and manipulated to give her movement. It's 43 cm high.
The embroidered cloth on which she rests is of Otomi heritage. These cloths are called Tenangos because they are originally from Tenango de Doria, in the Hidalgo region. It is a throw that was a wedding gift given to me by a teenage friend. It has been with us for almost 34 years.