Since the 1970s, instances of widespread societal terror and extermination have proliferated. The source of such conflicts may involve entities outside of a country but, often, the parties involved in the conflict are states and their citizens. These types of social injustices and human rights atrocities tear apart the very fabric of a society, often resulting from internal wars which pit people who previously lived side-by-side against one another. A constant in these conflicts is the silencing of communication on many levels which creates an opening for multiple forms of art to function as communicative media, visual testimony, and human rights violations documentation. This paper studies the processes though which oppressed people are able to create and export visual testimonial art and the conditions that may increase the likelihood of success. The 40-year history of Chilean arpilleras, commonly referred to as political quilts, is used as a case study to identify five phases of the arpilleras which directly correlate to the creators’ lived experience: trauma, survival, healing and recovering, and remembering. The role of oppressors (the Chilean military) and supporters (those who created protected spaces and facilitated movement of the arpilleras) is analyzed in two ways: through their familiar form, which gave the impression that the arpilleras were a safe women’s craft; and through their distinctive features, which created openings for the arpilleras to communicate in an international court of public opinion what the oppressors sought to silence. The fifth phase of the arpilleras, continuing circulation, provides an opportunity to examine how the arpilleras are used as models for subversive communication and in healing and reconciliation efforts. This close examination of the Chilean arpilleras as visual testimony and communicative art illustrates their contributions to social justice and peace.


documentation, healing, narrative, peace, reconciliation, truth

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)