Chilean quilts

Chilean quilts

Roberta Bacic is a Chilean curator and speaker who has curated more than 30 international exhibitions of arpilleras (quilts). In September Roberta was a keynote speaker at the Third International Visual Methods conference, hosted by Victoria University of Wellington and Te Papa. The Friends of Te Papa sponsored Roberta’s attendance at the Conference.

Since 2008, Roberta has curated more than 30 international exhibitions of arpilleras. Over time, these exhibitions have expanded from arpilleras from Pinochet’s Chile, to include expressions of loss, protest and healing from around the world.

Roberta at Lecture 1Float

Roberta Bacic (right) after her lecture for the Friends of Te Papa on 2 September 2013.

On Monday evening 2 September 2013, the Friends hosted a lecture by Roberta Bacic. She spoke passionately to the audience about the fascinating and politically-significant stories of arpilleras – tapestries or quilts sewn by women that ‘speak out’ visually about political repression and human rights abuses through their stitches.

Most of us are familiar with traditional quilts, quilts that tell a story and quilts that have particular significance to honour people or events. Listening to Roberta we gained a rare insight into the Chilean arpilleras that Chilean women created to depict the reality of life during the two decades of oppression under Pinochet.  These arpilleras, or colourful textile pictures, are created by appliquéing scraps of fabric onto a hessian backing. During one of the darkest periods in Chilean history of the Pinochet these pictures provided women with a means of recording events as well as obtaining income from abroad. They were a wonderful, creative way for women to deal with their powerlessness and are a visible reminder of the oppression.

Roberta’s lively talk, her examples of arpilleras and the visuals on the slide show provided the audience of friends with a glimpse of the courage of these women and their tangible reminder of Chile’s history.

You can download and read (a pdf) of the presentation here.


Feature Image: Detail from Paz – Justicia – Libertad / Peace – Justice – Freedom. Chilean Arpillera, Anon.