Received: August 28, 2017
Acceptance: September 7, 2017
For three months, a tour of Mexico was carried out with the exhibition entitled Weaving with the thread of memory: stitches of dignity in the midst of war; It showed the work of a collective of Colombian weavers made up of women survivors of the armed conflict. Through weaving they have told their stories, denouncing the injustices and violence they have suffered. The exhibition was shared with groups of weavers from Mexico City, Guerrero and Chiapas; at the same time, weaving and memory workshops were given and an audiovisual exhibition was held. The thread of memory is a documentary that follows the route of the exhibition in its journey through Mexico, it reflects on the bridges that are woven between collective creation, creativity and the transforming potential of the reality that shared spaces have to tell and weave.
The Threads of Memory
An exhibition entitled Knitting With the Thread of Memory: Knitting the Threads of Memory: Stitches of Dignity, Surrounded by War toured Mexico over the course of three months and presented work by a collective of Colombian knitters, all women who had survived experiences of armed conflict. Through knitting they have both recounted their stories and denounced the injustices and violence they have suffered. The show was presented to knitters' groups in Mexico City and the states of Chiapas and Guerrero; there were concurrent knitting and memory workshops as well as an audiovisual presentation. The thread of memory is a documentary that follows the show's Mexico tour in a reflection on the links that are woven between collective creation, creativity and the transformative potential of the reality inside spaces we share for knitting and storytelling.
Keywords: visual anthropology, knitting, memory, textile narratives, creative methodologies.
Weaving is not just a hobby, nor is it a domestic activity carried out by women; it is a reflection of thought, a repetitive mantra that invites abstraction and self-discovery.
Weaving is a form of writing, a language, an instrument that reflects the identity of the creator; it is a communication device, an activity that liberates, heals and makes the conception of time different.
The thread of memory is a documentary that is part of a series of five short films that I made within the framework of my doctoral thesis, entitled “Weaving and Resisting. Audiovisual ethnographies and textile narratives between Amuzga weavers in the state of Guerrero and weavers for memory in Colombia ”. This research focused on the dialogues established between visual anthropology, memory and collective creation processes, thus merging various perspectives that allowed me to understand the fabric, among other things, as a metaphor that has served to explain the social environment and to make sense of the world. This metaphor has been used, for example, among anthropologists and sociologists to explain the network of relationships that individuals weave to form networks; it is also used in biology to speak of tissue as the organized set of cells. Even in some languages the concept of weaving is analogous to the act of thinking, as is the case among the Kogi Indians of Colombia. In my case, understanding weaving not only as an anthropologist but also as a weaver was doubly revealing, because it allowed me to conceive it as an activity that fosters the creation of a sense of community, to later dignify and empower its performers. Likewise, it allows us to strengthen bonds of solidarity and shows, beyond the metaphor, how the social fabric is being spun.
To understand this approach it was necessary to know how to weave, because only through experience with the body, experiencing the effects of tissue on our brain and our emotions, can we understand how this activity also affects the social. It is necessary to take a thread, a crochet hook, a loom or some needles and begin to weave to allow ourselves to be enveloped by the unique effect of the fabric on our body and our environment; For this reason, I started from my experience as a weaver, experiencing with my body the healing and reflective effects that this activity gave me, especially when I carried it out with other people.
I realized that knitting collectively generates spaces where not only threads are woven: stories, affections, ideas, resistance and solutions are woven. Scenarios, social problems and individual needs are raised. The fabric makes up a space for socialization where creativity emerges and gives rise to reflection to influence the political-public; In other words, it offers a possibility to enunciate and make visible the pain of others in order to become sensitive to it, and of course, develop the capacity for resilience.
One of the objectives was to encourage the reflective capacity, both personal and collective, on the part of the Amuzga weavers, to consider textiles in their symbolic, narrative, affective and creative dimensions. The contribution of this approach was to provide the possibility of generating shared thoughts and ideas around the fabric and its transforming capacity.
This concern, in principle personal, was transformed into a collective experience and became a collaborative investigation where other knowledge of an affective, sensory-corporal, narrative, manual and creative order that includes the work of weaving was integrated.
The methodological proposal was based on the giving of workshops, an exhibition and the production of five video documentaries. These strategies became an alternative way of doing experimental ethnography to understand textile work in different contexts, and also to build ties and networks between weavers from other latitudes and share, through their fabrics, their own social processes as women and weavers organized in textile cooperatives. That was the case of the exchange that I fostered between weavers from Chiapas, Guerrero and Colombia and which led to the creation of the documentary The thread of memory.
I promoted, together with my Colombian colleague Isabel González, an exchange of textile works between the weavers of Colombia and some groups of weavers in Mexico, in a special way the link was established with the Amuzga weavers in the state of Guerrero, with whom I carried out work of field. However, the exchange was also extended with experiences of urban weavers such as the collective Bordando por la Paz y la Memoria: a victim a handkerchief, as well as in the Emiliano Zapata School of Arts and Crafts, in the Santo Domingo neighborhood of the city of Mexico. On the other hand, there was also an important exchange with a group of weavers from Zinacantán in Chiapas, who make up the Malacate Taller Experimental Textil collective..
The experience crystallized in this documentary consisted of mounting an exhibition entitled Weaving with the thread of memory: stitches of dignity in the midst of war, in which the work of the Collective Costurero por la memoria de Sonsón, from Colombia was shown, made up of women survivors of the armed conflict, who through their fabrics began to denounce injustices and stories of violence and managed to make them visible by using the fabric as a narrative support.
For three months, from November 2014 to January 2015, the exhibition toured the aforementioned spaces, with the idea of socializing the experience to other textile groups, weavers and the general public. Along with the exhibition, we gave workshops on "Weaving and Memory", and organized an audiovisual exhibition with this theme.
Throughout the tour, my camera accompanied the entire process. The documentary manages to rescue those moments of greater sensitivity and empathy with the spectators and participants of the workshops. The main intention was to repay the trust and effort of the Colombian weavers by sending us their woven pieces and sharing their deeply painful stories. Through the video they were able to appreciate the impact and resonance that the exhibition had for Mexican weavers and civil society in general, who had the opportunity to attend the exhibition or participate in the workshops.
At the end of the three-month tour of Mexico with the exhibition, we had already woven many ties and networks between people. The documentary, as a common thread, tells and shows people's response to the exhibition and describes the work of each of the groups we visit. He also reflects on the bridges that are woven between collective creation, creativity and expression as forms that allow healing and enhancing the transformative character that spaces have to create, narrate and weave.
In some way, this documentary is a kind of summary or synthesis of the doctoral research where diverse experiences around textiles and the act of weaving are brought together. It was the medium and support that transported messages between weavers and in general it is a portrait of the multiple possible appropriations that can be generated around the fabric.
The making of the five documentary videos meant more than a refuge so as not to get lost among the stories of other weavers, it was the opportunity to experiment, exercise the gaze, develop my own style to weave with images my journey in this ethnographic walk. I finished the investigation with a fabric of images that give an account of the experience lived in the intercultural encounter where various subjectivities and experiences converged around the fabric.
Next, I share the links to the other four documentaries that accompany the investigation and that will allow a greater understanding of the background that tissue has as a liberating, healing, conscientizing and transforming principle.
Director: Mariana rivera
Duration: 20 minutes
Sound Design: Josué Vergara
Music: Natalia Magliano and Leticia Servín