A new exhibition featuring textiles from South America is currently open to the public at the Tower Museum in Derry.
The special collection of ‘Conflict Textiles’ titled ‘Arpillera Journeys’ showcases some of the powerful pieces created in conflict zones from around the world.
The work includes embroidered wall hangings made by women in Chile, and will have a new permanent home here in the city as part of the archive and museum collection of Derry City Council.
The collection was collected and curated by Roberta Bacic, a Chilean woman living in Northern Ireland, who has been working with Derry City Council’s museum staff since 2008. It includes a selection of arpilleras - (arr-pee-ai-ahs) - stitched appliqué wall hangings from Chile.
“It’s an excellent exhibition and over the next few years all of the pieces will be handed over to Derry City Council,” said Derry City Council archivist, Bernadette Walsh.
“We had to fight off some serious competition from other museums but the owner of the pieces, Roberta Bacic, has a great relationship with the Tower Museum,” she added.
Many of the arpilleras made by women Chile were used as a way for them to communicate the horrors they experienced under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
Some of the women who made the arpilleras lost children under the rule of Pinochet.
These people who were never seen or heard from again are better known as ‘The Disappeared’ and many of the women used pieces of their old clothes when making the arpilleras.
“When you look at the pieces you first think that they are representing some happy memory because they are so colourful but once they are put into context you soon realise the horrors that some of these women experienced.”
One of the arpilleras on display was made by a Peruvian friend of Roberta Bacic who on returning to Peru from Chile was taken away by the military and never seen again.
“That particular piece is one of the most poignant because the woman in question was a friend of Roberta’s. She managed to get out of Peru and went to stay with Roberta in Chile. The woman always wanted to return and despite Roberta pleading with her not to she went back to Peru. A few weeks after she returned she disappeared and she has never been seen again.”
Admission to ‘Arpillera Journeys’ is free of charge and it will remain open to the public at the Tower Museum until May 2.