Tag Archives: San Miguel de Allende Mexico

I See You

“Don’t turn away,” they said. “Please see us. Please keep looking.” 

When artist and activist Lena Bartula heard these entreaties from Palestinian journalists on Instagram late last year, she was moved to act. 

She’d been asking herself how she could make a difference. She’d wanted to know how she could use her voice and her art to, as she told me recently, “do something about what we were all witnessing.”

Then, “it just came to me,” she said. “I thought, ‘I see you!’” And out of that came her newest textile art project, “Yo Te Veo” (I See You): squares of brightly colored fabric, each with a wide-open eye in the center, uniquely embroidered by caring volunteer participants. These squares are now being sewn together like a quilt onto an enormous huipil (traditional Mexican sleeveless, rectangular blouse), which will be part of Bartula’s solo exhibit at the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City from late May through early August.


All these eyes, Bartula told me, are “reminders that we’re watching the suffering, while at the same time watching the perpetrators. It’s about our staying awake and keeping our eyes open, not going back to sleep.”

          (Above: Lena Bartula with the big huipil in progress)

Since “Yo Te Veo” began four months ago, about 100 people (“99.5% women”) have participated in this textile art project, sitting in small groups at the sewing table in Bartula’s sunny studio in Colonia Guadalupe in San Miguel de Allende. To date these volunteers have made over 400 embroidered squares, but there’s room for more.

Lena Bartula at the sewing table in her Artspace studio

 “I invite people if they feel the need for something to do with their collective grief and the collective trauma that this genocide is causing,” Bartula said. “This is something that would be very therapeutic, very healing. 

“I’m also open to facilitating groups and working with other sewing groups in other parts of the world, making some kind of cross-cultural exchange to understand each other’s feelings and needs that might be addressed by a program such as this. Just imagine: It could be a cross-cultural exchange of witnesses for injustice! So powerful.”

When I asked Bartula what she’s learned from this ongoing project so far, she said, “What I’ve noticed from the women I stitch with is that there’s a solidarity there that they’ve never experienced before. It’s not like group therapy. It’s not like a workshop. It’s not like a party. It’s a way of being with people for a greater cause than we understand. What it really is, is people who feel so deeply that they don’t know what else to do; they don’t know where else to put their feelings.

“And even after Palestine, it will always be something – Yemen, Syria, Congo, Sudan – it will always be something.”

And she is also making prayer flags for the cause

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For much more information about artist Lena Bartula, her work, her book, and this new project, be sure to visit these valuable links: