First made in 1970s Chile by female relatives of victims of the Pinochet dictatorship, arpilleras are hand-sewn tapestries made from scraps. Since then, arpilleras have been produced in different parts of the world as a means of speaking out visually while in search for justice. In September 2013, twenty arpilleras from Pinochet’s era were exhibited in Wellington New Zealand for the first time as part of the Third International Visual Methods Conference. The exhibition and conference opened with an event that involved dance, poetry, music, food and wine. This event brought together approximately 100 people who were members of the Wellington-based Chilean and Latin American communities, the Chilean Ambassador and his staff, conference attendees, and other local residents.
Based on work with Dr Marcela Palomino-Schalscha and Ms Katia Guiloff, this seminar presents some insights from a feminist research project that traced the a/effects of this event on some Chilean migrant and refugee women living in Wellington. It explores how their engagements were embodied through performance, and how they were affected by visiting and being with the arpilleras on display. The arrival of these well-travelled older arpilleras on Wellington’s soil was catalytic for these women. It provoked a multi-sensory engagement that was simultaneously personal and collective, retrospective and contemporary, about somewhere else but also connected to New Zealand. The exhibited arpilleras therefore became actors in the womens' reworking of their subjectivities and spatial relationships. This research points to the important role that artifacts and artistic practice can play in processes of subject formation and improved settlement outcomes for migrant and refugee women.
Dr. Sara Kindon is an Associate Professor in Human Geography and Development Studies in the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. As a social and feminist geographer, Sara has focused on the practice, theorization and publication of participatory geographic research drawing on community-based fieldwork in Costa Rica and Indonesia, as well as collaborative projects with Indigenous Maaori and refugee-background communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. She has published widely and is on the editorial board of several prominent Geography journals. She also coordinates a network to support refugee-background students at her home institution. Sara is a Lillian Robinson Visiting Scholar at the SdBI during March, and then goes on to the UK where she will be a Visiting Fellow at Newcastle and Coventry Universities between April and September.