photo 04/22/2013, 17 22 14

Embroidery against violence: how needlework and activism go together

In a workshop held as part of the Tour de Lorraine in Bern At the end of April, we tested methods of craftivismhow handicraft and activism go together. Brazilian artist Eva de Souza shared with us her rich experience of textile art as a form of expression in resistance to violence. We learned a lot about the power of creativity for social change.

"I often feel powerless and sad in the face of the many crises in our world. That blocks me," said one of the participants in a relaxed exchange while we were all embroidering. Eva de Souza knows exactly these feelings all too well. In her native Salvador, Brazil, she has always been confronted with major social problems. Police violence, discrimination and deadly gun violence are part of everyday life, and the brutal horrors of colonialism and racism continue to reverberate. "For me, embroidery is a way to process the violence, to express the pain, and in doing so, to heal." Eva wears a suit jacket wildly embroidered with names of victims of police violence, a silent memorial against forgetting. "When I embroider, I can calm down, feelings of anxiety and blockages subside. I can do something concrete." is how the artist describes her experience. And that's exactly what everyone felt in the workshop, which lasted just under two hours. The participants were invited to embroider on a small piece of fabric words or symbols that expressed what touched them most in the diverse events on the Tour de Lorraine on the theme of "War and Peace". An embroidered essence of what they experienced. Some embroidered deliberately positive terms expressing a longing for utopia or simply "life is beautiful" as a counterpoint to the many great challenges of our time. Others expressed their excessive demands and sadness. In the common doing a calm, comfortable and peaceful atmosphere developed. Embroidery became a vehicle to openly share what moves us. In the short time we experienced connectedness in the group, much personal was shared. The exchange went deeper than in the usual discussions and debates. There was more room for feelings.  

It is precisely this effect that authors of the craftivism movement describe as the strength of this approach. Craftivism is a combination of craft and activism. For example, Sophie Freeman of craftivist collective writes "Craftivism is a way of expressing one's opinion through creativity that strengthens one's voice, deepens compassion, and helps build connections through shared creative practice. "1 We know this from our partner organizations in Latin America, where these approaches have a long tradition. Women's groups in Chile found in the 1970s in tapestries a form of expression of their resistance against the Pinochet dictatorship. Today, those affected by dam projects use craftivism approaches as a silent form of protest. 

rechazamos hidroeletricas 2

In our workshop during the Tour of the Lorraine, it became tangible: creative methods create low-threshold encounter formats where we come out of our bubbles and meet on a human level. Here, it is not so much the designed product that is decisive, but the joint process. In a time of digitalization and fast-paced life, this form of quiet activism helps us to decelerate. Instead of overwhelming ourselves with the constant flood of information, we take the time to "work together against injustice," as one of the participants put it. This can be a contribution to strengthening our resilience in the face of multiple social crises. 


1 How we define Craftivism: by Sophie Freeman - Craftivist Collective (craftivist-collective.com) 

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