This arpillera was created by the Nelson United Church Sunday School children during the fall session of 2002. Inspired by the Seasons of the Spirit curriculum, the children created a scene of the City of Nelson and area, quickly identified by the "big orange bridge" in the centre of the mural. Made by ingenuity and different art materials, pipe-cleaner people are busy around town, and enjoying various recreational activities.
Arpillera (Spanish for sackcloth or burlap) is folk art, exquisitely detailed, hand-sewn three dimensional textile pictures, illustrating the stories of the lives of the women of the shantytowns (pueblo jovenes) of Chile. The story of the arpilleras and of the women who created them is one of struggle and hope. The arpilleristas teach us about being community: a community of justice and solidarity.
With their bright colors and charmingly designed figures the arpilleras have an innocence that belies the power and severity of their message. Created under conditions of political and economic repression, arpilleras depict the true conditions of the poor in Chile. Made by the wives of political prisoners, the widows of men who "disappeared" from villages, and the mothers of hungry children, women sew and sell arpilleras to earn a small income for the survival of their families.
After the military junta of General Augusto Pinochet came to power in 1973, women in Chile have gathered to make arpilleras, so called because of their coarse burlap backings. These rough patch work appliqués were part of a new aesthetic expression created by urban women to show the conditions of poverty and oppression in which they lived. Begun as a popular folk art, well before the election of the government of Salvador Allende, these arpilleras, evolved into a poignant protest banner calling for justice, freedom and equality, for a return of basic human rights to Chile. Even the most suspicious guards did not think to check the appliquéd pictures for messages, since sewing was seen as inconsequential 'women's work'.
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