Stories of the Stitched Voices exhibition
Have you ever ventured into organising an exhibition? And not just any exhibition, but one that addresses people’s experiences of violent conflict, arbitrary oppression and grave injustice? We hadn’t… until we decided to commission and organise Stitched Voices, an exhibition of textiles telling the personal stories of people who live through such horrible experiences, who express their solidarity with needle and thread, or who take to the streets with sewn banners to protest.
In this blog, we reflect on the process of the daunting task of organising an exhibition of sewn, quilted, and embroidered textile stories of violence, oppression and injustice. An exhibition that does justice to the experiences of the exhibits’ makers. An exhibition that lifts voices, enables conversations, and represents diversity and even controversy. An exhibition that values the experiences and creative processes expressed in the arpilleras (three-dimensional wall hanging), quilts, handkerchiefs, and banners it displays. An exhibition that respects the victims and relatives of violence, torture, forced disappearances and other human rights violations. An exhibitions that does not silence marginalised voices but enables them to be heard. This blog is about how we approached these issues, what worked and what didn’t, what remained controversial between us, and what can be seen as good practice, hopefully helping others who embark on a similar journey.
Key to our process of organising Stitched Voices was the evolving conversations between us, as the organisers, as well as the people we met along the way. “We”, that is Christine Andrä, Berit Bliesemann de Guevara, Lydia Cole and Dani House – four researchers at the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University, UK. Yet, we were not alone in pulling off this project. In our reflections, dear reader, you will meet not only the curator of our exhibition, Roberta Bacic, but also the many other wonderful people – not least the textile makers – without whose knowledge, experience, imagination, dedication and enthusiasm this project would have been impossible.
In the spirit of our experience of Stitched Voices as the beginning of conversations, we have decided to write this blog conversationally as well, imagining it as a continuation of the Stitched Voices process. It is a chance for us to reflect on the exhibition, our process, and the questions that all of this raises for international politics. We would like to invite you, dear reader, to join in the conversation, to share your own experiences, thoughts or doubts, by commenting on our posts or contacting us directly. We look forward to talking to you!