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Published: 29 February 2020

By Andy Ross

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Textiles have been oftentimes used as a form of protest. These poignant arpilleras from Chile are a powerful reminder of why such craft is vital.

During the rule of Pinochet in Chile, people started to create quilts on burlap which depicted the regime's brutality. Many of these women, for it was primarily women who made these pieces, had lost members of their family during the years of the dictatorship, and while searching for their loved ones, began to recognise each other and come together to create remembrances. Made with applique and embroidery, sometimes the ariplleras - the word means "burlap" in Spanish - incorporated fabric from the clothing of the people who had "disappeared". The quilts were sent out of Chile to be sold internationally, and had to be smuggled out in the years following denunciation of them by the ruling party. Sometimes the quilts were the only form of income for whole families where the men, who had been the breadwinners, had gone. 

California's Museum of Latin American Art is showing some of these arpilleras, and telling the stories of the women who made them, in an exhibition which runs until March 29th. Without these reminders, such histories could be left to fade into memory.

Thank you to our contributor from South Africa who sent in this link