The first time that the people of Södertälje could experience arpilleras was in 1979 when a smaller collection was exhibited at Södertälje konsthall. In that exhibition there were primarily motifs of Chile at the time before the military coup against Salvador Allende in 1973.
Here the Chilean women return with arpilleras that depict the time before and after the military coup as well as the exile in Sweden. The arpilleras are sown by around 20 women of different ages and are made during the period from the 1979 until today. The group has worked together. They have sown, talked and processed their experiences and memories from Chile together. Some memories have been painful and the work of sowing them into the fabric has meant a kind of grief processing.
The way of sowing arpilleras comes from an older Chilean tradition, but has since 1973 been used in the political resistance movement. The fight for democracy and education, as well as the woman’s role in this runs as a read thread through these images.
Arpilleras means gunny, and is the fabric that forms the foundation of the textiles. Pieces of fabric in different colours, patterns and qualities have been cut into figures, are sown or stiched together at the edges with blanket seam, so as to form clear contours. Around every arpillera a frame is crocheted in a colourful wool yarn.
The colourful quality of arpilleras makes it easy to interpret them as happy and idyllic. Therefore we react strongly in face of the motifs that instead tell of painful events.
The women in the Salvador Allende Committee here account for their years long work in the Södertälje studio. They feel that work of processing the memories now has come to a natural end. Instead they want to make more free motifs, for example interpretations of poetry. Several arpillera works are to be donated to the coming Allende museum in Chile, some are to be given to Södertälje municipality as a gift.
We at Södertälje konsthall are delighted to show the results of the Chilean women’s work. The exhibition is an account of an era of their lives in their new home of Södertälje.
We thank Christer Duke, who has written an engaging text in our catalogue. A thank you also for the collaboration with Salvador Allende Committee through their chairwoman Cecilia Valdés. Lastly, a thank you to Södertälje immigration committee for the support and encouragement they have given us in our production of the exhibition Arpilleras.
– Pia Thunholm