Quilt: The word alone conjures warmth, love and comfort — the antithesis of cold, cruel violence. To be wrapped in a lovingly made quilt is to feel cared for. To quilt is to make something meaningful and beautiful by hand, usually in community. A handmade quilt speaks silently: Look at me. I matter. I will endure.
Think of the AIDS Memorial Quilt project — begun in the mid-‘80s to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic raging then — which went on to become the largest ongoing community art project in the world. Lovingly stitched onto each panel of the quilt is the name of a person who died of AIDS – more than 92,000 names in all, but only 20 percent of those who died in that pandemic – who silently speaks to us. If laid end to end these panels would cover 50 miles. (See this 5-minute YouTube video for more about the AIDS Memorial Quilt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HsDs3YRRZg .)
No doubt inspired by the AIDS quilt, a group of Mexican women, led by artist and curator Marietta Bernstorff, initiated a similar textile art project in 2020, called The Patchwork Healing Blanket/ La Manta de Curación, to raise awareness of the social and personal wounds caused by violence against women, children, and the environment.
According to writer Karen Cordero Reiman, this “is a collective project in which the efforts of women from Mexico and other parts of the world come together to say, ‘Enough is enough!’ regarding the lack of respect for their bodies, lives, and natural surroundings. Through the integration of images and texts elaborated in an artisanal manner and in a context of sorority, this work demands a public recognition of the inadmissible abuses committed, and urges union to resist them.”
This week an exhibit of The Patchwork Healing Blanket opened in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, at the beautiful Bellas Artes Cultural Center (El Nigromante) and will run until May 26.
The exhibition, filling three large rooms, from floor to ceiling, as you enter the 18th century former convent, is comprised of 600 textile squares created and submitted by women all over the world, including a number of women from San Miguel de Allende. These quilt squares powerfully, yet silently raise their voices contra violence against women, children, and Mother Earth.
From its first showing in the Zocalo of Mexico City in 2020, the project continued nationally and globally during the COVID pandemic, through to today. Currently, says Reiman, “the call for participation continues and the blanket keeps growing, enriched by workshops, roundtable discussions, and exhibitions that motivate dialogue, heightened consciousness, and affective support, in an effort to counteract the culture of violence.”
I think it’s fair to say that women have been quietly sitting and sewing ever since the first needles were carved from bone in prehistory. And women have been gathering in peace, sorority, and solidarity to create quilts for almost as long. This Patchwork Healing Blanket exhibit is another proof of the potential of women’s quiet, creative, quilt-power through the ages, in this case to stand up nonviolently against violence and oppression. See it.
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- The exhibition is free and open to the public until May 26. The Bellas Artes Cultural Center is located on Hernandez Macias 75 in SMA’s centro. The hours are 10 am to 5:30 pm Monday through Friday, and 10 am to 2 pm on Saturdays. For more about Bellas Artes visit: http://www.experience-san-miguel-de-allende.com/bellas-artes-el-nigromante.html .
- A Patchwork Healing Blanket quilt-making workshop will be held at the Bellas Artes here in SMA on Saturday, March 9th. For more information, visit the group’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/816210978894280 .
- For the story of my own quilt project in Mali, West Africa, read HOW TO MAKE AN AFRICAN QUILT — https://www.amazon.com/How-Make-African-Quilt-Patchwork/dp/0615773397/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8 .