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Discussion Questions:
Adapted from the poster series titled questionArte by Marilyn Stewart PhD, published by CRIZMAC (Item # 1000 $62.00)

What is it that people express through the artworks they make?

• Do they express their feelings? Their ideas? Their beliefs? Always or
sometimes?

• How is it possible that an artwork can show us the feelings, ideas, or
beliefs of an artist?

• Do makers have to feel something in order to express feelings in the
artworks they make?


From the Teacher’s Guide of questionArte
“Talking about particular works of art, as well as about art in general, can be the most satisfying activity associated with learning about art and art-makers. Students gain new insights as they examine and investigate works of art and offer possible interpretations about meaning. Students learn from each other in the process of discussing important questions about art. They learn about their own art-making as they consider what they have accomplished through their efforts.

 

Arpilleras
The Colorful Appliqués from Peru


Arpilleras are panels made with a variety of fabrics that are appliquéd to a background cloth. In some cases, parts of the appliquéd fabrics are stuffed and sewn to the background to create a three-dimensional work.

The craft of making arpilleras originated in Chile, as a reaction to the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. His dictatorship, from 1973-1989, was characterized by repression, poverty, censorship, exile, and fear that silenced the people of Chile. Thousands of people, especially the men from the rural villages, were arrested, taken from their homes, and many were never seen again. In Spanish the word to describe the men and others who disappeared is “desaparecidos.” Their wives, mothers, and sisters were left alone to fend for themselves. For many it was the first time they had to provide for their families and take care of all of the household duties without the help of a man. Many of the women made a concerted and continued effort to obtain information about their missing family members, but when they sought to find out their whereabouts, the government was silent and uncooperative. In addition to their intense grief, the women were in desperate need for a source of income.

An effort to help the women was offered through the Catholic Church under the direction of the Vicariate of Solidarity. They set up workshops in 1974 to teach the women new job skills. When Valentina Bonne, a local artist, began working with groups of women in Santiago, Chile, she recognized that they were so consumed by grief that they needed an outlet for their sorrow. She gathered scrap fabrics, including some from the clothing of the men, and arpilleras were “born” as a spontaneous response to the women’s need to tell their stories. The first arpilleras were small and simple, but they expressed their feelings about the disappearance of their men, narrated their plight, and drew attention to the political situation in Chile.

As the arpilleras gained in popularity, people around the world were made aware of the situation in Chile. Before long, the arpilleras gave the women a powerful voice in the world community as well as a financial means of support. Although the literal translation of the word arpillera is “burlap” for the backing of the work, it has come to mean “the cloth of resistance.” In 1989, when democracy was reinstated in Chile, the Vicariate of Solidarity considered their work finished and discontinued the arpillera workshops. As Chile became more industrialized, many women began to work in the factories and had less time available to dedicate to making arpilleras. Today many of the original arpilleras, are displayed in museums or owned by a few individuals who collected them. It was a humble beginning for what is today seen as a powerful form of folk art.

Arpilleras made the transition to the neighboring country of Peru in the 1980’s. During this time period, a group known as the “Shining Path” was terrorizing the country. They engaged in guerrilla warfare, and some of the most brutal attacks were directed at the peasants in the Andean highlands. Many of these people fled their rural homes for the slums and shantytowns of Lima.

Their circumstances were similar in many ways to those of the women in Chile, and they, too, turned to arpilleras as a means of economic and social support. The women formed cooperative groups and worked together to develop their craft. Today they share their talents and expertise and all benefit from the sale of their work.

No longer used as a political force, Peruvian arpilleras are generally more whimsical, with brighter colors and more cheerful subjects than the earlier Chilean arpilleras. Although the women who make the arpilleras do not live in the mountains today, they have vivid memories of earlier times. The subject matter for Peruvian arpilleras is often drawn from the life in the rural highlands that the women had to leave behind. As a result, they create beautiful country scenes that include mountains, trees, animals, the village architecture, fields of crops, and people. Going to the market is an important part of daily life for rural people. Wonderful market scenes, which depict foods, vegetables, clothing, and household items are often favorite subjects. Weddings, local dances, Carnaval, and community celebrations are also common subjects.