Wednesday, 21 February 2024

Textile Details

'Broken Rifle 2', by Irene MacWilliam. (Photo: Martin Melaugh)
'Broken Rifle 2', by Irene MacWilliam. (Photo: Martin Melaugh)


Title of Textile:Broken Rifle 2
Maker: Irene MacWilliam
Country of Origin: Northern Ireland
Year Produced: 2013
Size (cm): 30cm (w) x 21cm (l)
Materials: Made with cottons and machine worked.
Type of Textile: Arpillera

Here, the striking image of a broken rifle, clenched by strong hands which are reddened with the bloodshed of war, is vividly depicted here in textile form by MacWilliam. The symbol itself, which represents the destruction of weapons and denounces the institution of war, was first used in the masthead of the January 1909 issue of "De Wapens Neder" (Down With Weapons), the monthly paper of the International Anti-militarist Union in the Netherlands. During the twentieth century it has become synonymous with the pacifist/nonviolent section of the anti-war movement.

War Resisters International (WRI), a global pacifist and anti-militarist network came into being in 1921 and adopted the broken rifle as its core symbol in 1931. Many of its founders were involved in the resistance to the First World War; its first Secretary, Herbert Runham Brown, spent two and a half years in a British prison as a conscientious objector. Currently, WRI includes over 80 affiliated groups in 40 countries committed to their founding declaration which states that: “War is a crime against humanity. I am therefore determined not to support any kind of war, and to strive for the removal of all causes of war..”. The broken rifle is indeed an apt symbol.

At the Arpilleras International Forum held in Gernika in February 2016, Alex Carrascosa, one of the organizers, donated the Zapatista doll that he had kept for years. The ex-combatant who made the doll had laid down his arms, opting instead to continue the struggle through nonviolence. To mark this transition, Roberta Bacic draped the doll with the WRI badge, positioning it where the rifle would have been held. This new addition was sewn in place by Irene MacWilliam.

Owner: Conflict Textiles collection
Location: c/o C. Goldstein, Grossmann Gallery, Healey Library, University-Massachusetts, Boston
Original / Replica: Original
Photographer: Martin Melaugh
Provenance: Donation from Irene MacWilliam

Textile Detail Image(s)