Coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of the 1973 coup d’état in Chile, this conference addresses the language of Chilean arpilleras (burlap works), an exercise of reflection, denouncement and memory developed by groups of women in the dictatorship years. The activity is structured around a conversation on Conflict Textiles’ collection of arpilleras conducted by its founder Roberta Bacic and researcher Marina Vinyes; a symbolic handover ceremony of a series of five Conflict Textiles arpilleras acquired by the Museo Reina Sofía Foundation in 2023; and, as a coda, an arpilleras workshop led by Pilar López and Roser Corbera from the arpilleras group of the Fundació Ateneu Sant Roc (Badalona).
Chilean arpilleras emerged in the wake of Augusto Pinochet’s military coup via organisations that surfaced to support, protect and defend victims of human rights violations. These works were made with pieces of cloth hand-sewn on burlap and flour sacks or even sometimes patches of clothing from victims’ families. Over time, the technique was taught in workshops across the country with a twofold objective: to aid survival and to represent the reality of the women creating them. Through international solidarity, these collective textile testimonies extended beyond the borders of the Chilean dictatorship to inspire other communities.
Today, one of the richest collections of arpilleras, from both Chile and other contexts, is Conflict Textiles, a body associated with Conflict Archive on the Internet, from Ulster University, Northern Ireland, and which also carries out documentation work and disseminates the project. The act of sewing, in which images and messages slowly emerge, not only dislocates the rhythms and temporality of denouncement, but also realises and collectivises it, imparting greater urgency. In terms of the Chilean dictatorship, arpilleras became a platform for decrying injustices, retrieving, at the same time, sensibility, care and the colours of life, and becoming familiar with their language and experience continues to be a form of resistance and opposition to violence and its trivialisation.
Roberta Bacic was born in Chile and lives in Northern Ireland. She is a professor of Philosophy and English and a researcher in issues related to human rights. She is the founder of the Conflict Textiles Arpilleras collection, through which she explores the world of arpilleras during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile and the use of artisan textiles as an art form which enables the repression and violence endured, particularly by women, to be condemned.
Carolina Espinoza is a journalist who holds a PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology from Spain’s National University of Distance Education. She has worked for media outlets in Chile and Spain, where she has lived since the year 2000, and her research strands are centred on exile and the intergenerational transmission of trauma. She is currently an adviser for the Study Centre inside the Museo Reina Sofía’s Public Activities Department.
Carolina González Castro is the managing director of the Museo Reina Sofía Foundation.
Marina Vinyes holds a degree in Humanities and studied Contemporary Film and Audiovisual Studies at Pompeu Fabra University. In 2017, she wrote her doctoral thesis Una palabra propia. Experiencia y relato en las arpilleras chilenas (Self-expression. Experience and Narrative in Chilean Arpilleras), and at present she is a PhD candidate in Visual Arts and Philosophy at the Universitat de Barcelona and Sorbonne University in Paris, where she lectures in the Literature Department. She also oversees the film programme at the Filmoteca de Catalunya. imparte clases en la Facultad de Letras. Además, ejerce como responsable de programación de la Filmoteca de Catalunya.
The arpilleras group from the Fundació Ateneu Sant Roc (Badalona) is a collective of women who, from reflection, co-existence and shared action, use the language of arpilleras as a tool of expression to give a voice to those without one. Since its first encounter in 2009, the group has devised exhibitions on themes of community and social commitment to call attention to human rights violations and to foster a culture of peace.
Educational programme developed with the sponsorship of
—By Carolina González Castro (Museo Reina Sofía Foundation) and Carolina Espinoza (Museo Reina Sofía)
10:15am - 12pm
Conversation. Conflict Textiles and the Language of Arpilleras
—Conversation. Conflict Textiles and the Language of Arpilleras
12pm - 12:15pm
A Symbolic Handover Ceremony of the Ensemble of Arpilleras Acquired by the Museo Reina Sofía Foundation
—With the Participation of Roberta Bacic (Conflict Textiles) and Carolina González Castro (Museo Reina Sofía Foundation)
12:15pm - 2:30pm
Arpilleras Sewing Workshop. Sewing to Heal
—By Pilar López and Roser Corbera (the arpilleras group from the Fundació Ateneu Roc, Badalona)