Quilt of Remembrance at Exhibition in Basque Country

23rd October 2015

The WAVE Quilt of Remembrance is part of the exhibition “Stitching Peace: Conflict, Arpilleras, Memory” at the Gernika Peace Museum in Basque Country. Through the medium of textile art, groups and individuals from all over the world have expressed their experiences of conflict and human rights abuse. The exhibition was curated by Roberta Bacic with the assistance of Breege Doherty.

Much of the experiences stiched into the textiles are challenging to look at, and for many of the women (and the few men) involved in producing the textile pieces, it was a way to express something they could not put into words. The introduction in the Gernika Peace Museum’s leaflet reads:

“Their finished pieces bring to life stories of disappearances, forced execution, torture and experiences of a broad spectrum of victims during conflict, exile and political imprisonment. Loss of their loved ones during times of conflict and war, resilience, resistance, denouncement, displacement and actions in social justice are also strongly portrayed. In the midst of such turmoil, the courage and collective action of these women in working towards a more peaceful society and a return to democracy is evident. These stitched voices are undoubtedly a contribution to memory and justice.”

The exhibition started off on 8th October with a conference. Professionals in the field of psychological trauma and quilt/arpilleras making discussed the value of quilt making and textile art as a way of telling stories as well as empowering individuals and groups. Organised by the Gernika Peace Museum and its director Iratxe Momoitio Astorkia, participants came for example from Colombia, Canada, Chile, Finland, Basque Country, Catalonia and Spain, Poland and France. From Northern Ireland, WAVE Ballymoney project manager Sonja Tammen was invited to attend the conference.

Each of the 33 individual pieces of textile art are impressive in their own way. Some of the storytelling clothes were produced in art therapeutic sessions at a refugee centre for women in Toronto/Canada, others highlighted for example community spirit in a migrant community in Barcelona, or the destruction of a rural community through war and violence in Chile. “I was very proud to present the Quilt of Remembrance to an international audience”, Sonja Tammen says: “Everybody was stunned by the complexity and the emotion of this powerful piece, as well as the cross-community approach.”

The Gernika Peace Museum was founded as a response to the bombing of Gernika by German and Italian military during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. At the time, it was an important victory for General Franco. The famous picture painted by Pablo Picasso describes the despair and destruction caused by the horrendous attack. Today the Gernika Peace Museum focuses on the wider aspect of peace on both an individual and international level.