Monday, October 4, 2010

Woven stories

Textiles, in general, hold a certain fascination for me.  I love the tactile quality of producing a textile and that they can touch people across time and space. I love the potential for them to tell a story, both explicitly and implicitly.  The potential for them to capture the imagination of kids is also a real possibility.

A current exhibition at the Military Museums in Calgary recently reminded me of this power.  This exhibition showcases rugs woven in traditional Afghani style but that now depict weapons and other machines of war such as tanks and helicopters, reflecting the seemingly never ending conflict this country endures. This is a recent adaptation marketed primarily to non-Afghanis, such as soldiers and diplomats.  What a cool hook to tie in to current affairs.

I’ve always enjoyed looking at medieval tapestries showing battles being won and lost, maidens, mythical beasts, and glimpses of the lives of the rich (if not famous), which allow us to see a time past.  Quilts sown by black slaves, subversively offering clues to routes to freedom under the noses of cruel masters, also offer rich narrative and capture the imagination. Nothing like secret codes to appeal to students.

The Doucette Library recently purchased two arpilleras (similar to the one shown but not exactly the same) (958 Cou 2006 AV) from Peru that introduced me to another form of textile storytelling.  These particular pieces are brightly, embroidered squares of cloth showing marketplaces in city and country settings.  Great resources for the grade 3 social studies Alberta curriculum which studies Peru.  But, wanting to know more about them, I typedarpilleras’ into Google and brought up references that takes this craft back to Chile and how it was used primarily by women during the regime of Pinochet as a form of protest about ‘the disappeared’, family members how were kidnapped and arrested by the government often never to be seen again.  What an interesting way to tell a story.  Maybe not for grade three but certainly could be used at the high school level where the curriculum looks at different types of ‘isms’ and governments. Or, you could talk about the importance of cooperatives, where many arpilleras are created as a source of income for the poor living in the slums of Peru.  So many layers can be embedded in a seemingly innocuous tourist souvenir.

Here are a few books that tie textiles to story:

   Memories of survival by Esther Nisenthal Krinitz (940.5318 KrM 2005) - Suggested for grades 6 and up.  An elderly Jewish woman constructs several fabric panels that tells of her survival in Poland during the Holocaust.

Whispering cloth: a refugee story by Pegi Deitz Shea (823 Sh3W PIC BK) - Suggested for grades 2-6. A Hmong girl living in a refugee camp learns, from her grandmother, the craft of making pa’ndau, story cloths that are a source of income and comfort as she tells her own traumatic story.

Dia’s story cloth (973.0495 ChD 1996) - Suggested for grades 3 and up.  A true story about another Hmong family living in Laos during the 1960s and their escape to Thailand.  Includes lots of information about this art form and its importance to the Hmong people, a history of Laos as well as a personal history.

Stitching truth: women’s protest art in Pinochet’s Chile by Dan Eshet (waiting to be catalogued)- A study unit that looks at how women ‘fought’ back against the terror of Pinochet’s brutal government.

Art against the odds: from slave quilts to prison paintings by Susan Goldman Rubin (709.0407 RuA 2004).  Suggested for grades 5 and up.  Includes a chapter about American slaves quilting maps to freedom.

And two more examples of actual textiles in our collection: 

Sujani story cloth (954 Su 2006 AV) - An embroidered cloth that depicts everyday life for a woman living in rural India.

Metis sashes (970.00497 M Hab 2005 AV) - These sashes directly connect the history of the Metis to the development of Canada telling us of the importance of the sash both practically and symbolically. 

Join Nonfiction Monday Roundup at Madigan Reads to see a list of recent blogs dedicated to highlighting nonfiction resources.


Unknown said...

Teaching materials to accompany the book "Memories of Survival" and lesson plans for student expression through fabric art are available at Art and Remembrance, a non-profit, arts and educational organization that seeks to change people's hearts and minds by illuminating the experience of war, oppression, and injustice through the power and passion of personal narrative in art.

Tammy Flanders said...

Thanks for contributing the website address, Bruce. The guide to this book looks thoughtful. I'm looking into picking the DVD for this and "Hilos de la Vida". Storytelling at its best.

Madigan Mirza said...

I love children's picture books created with quilt or fabric illustrations - like Clare Beaton's work or Sally Mavor's. What a great collection of non-fiction works you've rounded up here.

Thanks for participating in NonFiction Monday.

Zoe @ Playing by the book said...

I too have a thing for fabric, so this is a great round up for me. One of my favourite picture books about sewing is Halibut Jackson - here's my review:

Tammy Flanders said...

Thanks, Madigan.
I'm unfamiliar with both of these artists. I be sure to look them up.

Tammy Flanders said...

Oh, Zoe, I love the skirts you made for your daughters.
I'll look into Halibut Jackson. Thanks for the link to your review.

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