Friday, 30 September 2022

Textile Details

'La Maternidad de Elna / Mothers of Elne', Arpilleristas Fundació Ateneu Sant Roc. (Photo: Roser Corbera)
'La Maternidad de Elna / Mothers of Elne', Arpilleristas Fundació Ateneu Sant Roc. (Photo: Roser Corbera)


Title of Textile:La Maternidad de Elna / Mothers of Elne
Maker: Arpilleristas Fundació Ateneu Sant Roc
Country of Origin: Catalonia / Spain
Year Produced: 2012
Size (cm): 49cm (w) x 42cm (h)
Materials: Scraps of material hand sewn onto burlap
Type of Textile: Arpillera

In the closing days of January 1939, with the Spanish civil war in its third year, Nationalist troops captured Barcelona. As the whole of Catalonia soon fell to Franco, an estimated 500,000 Republican supporters began their exodus across the border into refugee camps in Roussillon, France.

In these overcrowded camps, where infant mortality exceeded 90%, the Elne Maternity Home was set up nearby by Swiss National Elizabeth Eidenbenz. Arpilleristas from Fundació Ateneu Sant Roc remember it as: “the only refuge and space for pregnant women who endured misery for their babies and themselves in the camps.”

Here, the arpilleristas pay tribute to this remarkable centre where, between 1939 and 1944, almost 600 babies were born to women fleeing the Spanish civil war and later, Jewish refugees and gypsies fleeing the Nazi invasion. We see women about to give birth, the new babies in the nursery and women engaged in the general running of the centre; women of so many different origins sharing the experience of motherhood. Overall, a sense of dignity, calm, care and welcome pervades this arpillera, a far cry from the chaos and disorder of camp life.

In the words of its founder Elizabeth Eidenbenz, the centre was as “an island of peace amongst an ocean of destruction.” For the arpilleristas reconnecting with their memories of it through their stitching, almost 80 years later, the centre was a respite from “their [experience] of suffering, human rights’ violations and fears” endured during the Nationalist occupation and their journey into exile.

Memorial Democratic (2011): “ELNE Maternity Home – Homage to Elizabeth Eidenbenz (12th June 1913 – 23rd May 2011)” Available from Conflict Textiles Archive.

Owner: Fundació Ateneu Sant Roc collection, Catalonia / Spain
Location: Fundación Ateneu Sant Roc, Badalona, Catalonia / Spain
Original / Replica: Original
Photographer: Roser Corbera

Textile exhibited at: RETAZOS TESTIMONIALES: arpilleras de Chile y otras latitudes, 28/09/2013 - 10/11/2013
War-Torn Children, 1/03/2017 - 15/04/2017
War-Torn Children, 2/10/2017 - 27/10/2017
War-Torn Children, 8/02/2018 - 24/03/2018
War-Torn Children, 5/09/2018 - 29/11/2018
Conflict Textiles talk , 3/02/2019 - 3/02/2019
Suitcases: Telling Textile Travels /Maletas: Contando Viajes Textiles, 1/10/2021 - 7/11/2021
A World of Stories, 15/05/2023 - 31/08/2023

Textile Detail Image(s)