My Journey into Conflict and the World of Arpilleras, Part 2 (of 3)

A guest post by Eileen Harrisson

When I met Roberta and the team in Aberystwyth, the piece that caught her eye was Continuum and now that I have learned so much about the arpilleras and their makers through taking part in Stitched Voices and the other exhibitions in which Roberta has invited me to take part, I understand why it was this piece that drew her.


This is Continuum in the exhibition Stitched Legacies of Conflicts in the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre, Limavady, October 2016. I am talking about it to my sister Joyce and visitor, Stefania.

This was the first time my stitched work had been seen in the country of my birth and it was such a welcoming environment in which to show it and such a beautiful space. It seemed almost unnerving that in this place my topic should be violence but my piece is not sectarian; through it, I wish to express the suffering that violence inflicts on all and it was a work among all those others also speaking of the tragedy of conflict. I was privileged to have the companionship, through their work in the arpilleras, of those other women across the world who have experienced suffering through conflict, very often with much more tragic consequences than those which I experienced.

Detail from Continuum, by Eileen Harrisson

This is a detail from the Continuum. The colours in the piece have a significance for me, one of them being red, the red of blood from so many who lost their lives; the red of fire of a city at night, burning. Another important aspect of my work is the poetry that I write and perform and my work on the Troubles actually started with the poetic word rather than the visual image. My poem Belfast: Lagan Revisited speaks about a lone walk I had through the city when the Central Library, where I worked at the time in the Art Department, had closed early due to the number of bombs going off near to it and in the city centre. It had then been our only late evening opening but all evening openings ceased after this. The poem also talks about the Peace Process which, despite tensions and occasional attempts to disrupt it, still holds and you can listen to me giving a reading of it on Soundcloud by clicking on the link above.

Detail from Continuum, by Eileen Harrisson

The title Continuum, and one of the reasons I made this piece, arises from my sadness that conflicts continue to affect humankind in various parts of the globe. They go through all the centuries with, in the twentieth, the terrible suffering of the two world wars.

This is another detail from Continuum and it shows my father in his RAF forage cap, also members of his squadron when he joined up in the early years of World War 2. The crying child is from my memories of the Troubles when, at one of the bombings, I was so angry that the perpetrators caused the children such fear and upset. The broken mirror shard represents. among other things, all the lives torn apart and broken by the tragedy of conflict.

Exhibited together: Continuum (by Eileen Harrisson) and The Plantation: Process, People, Perspectives (by Deborah Stockdale)  

The piece is seen here with the Ulster arpilleras close by and, in the foreground, Deborah Stockdale’s Quilt in which she details dates and incidents in the history of the Province.

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