Thursday, 8 December 2022

Textile Details

'North Belfast Friendship Club 2019', Asylum seekers facilitated by Roberta Bacic. (Photo: Martin Melaugh)
'North Belfast Friendship Club 2019', Asylum seekers facilitated by Roberta Bacic. (Photo: Martin Melaugh)


Title of Textile:North Belfast Friendship Club 2019
Maker: Asylum seekers facilitated by Roberta Bacic
Country of Origin: Northern Ireland
Year Produced: 2019
Size (cm): 73 cm (w) x 63 (h)
Materials: Various fabric scraps and threads on a hessian / burlap backing
Type of Textile: Arpillera

Connecting, supporting and forming new friendships are at the core of the North Belfast Friendship Club; this welcoming space where people from all over the world meet every Tuesday evening.

Roberta Bacic, invited by her friend and long time peace activist Ann Patterson, first came to the group in 2018 to extend the hand of friendship and solidarity to these newcomers, many of whom were seeking asylum in Northern Ireland.

Over the coming months Roberta introduced the group to Chilean arpilleras; the textile stories of womens’ lived experiences during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973 - 1990). Later, she invited them to create their own arpillera dolls. With scraps of material, yarn and thread, they shaped their dolls; these cloth characters representing a person they left behind. Some created a family member – one man fashioned his mother and clothed her in her own scarf now in his possession – another depicted a police figure. The 25 dolls, as diverse as their makers, embody layers of stories and memories from different continents, journeys and eras.

Roberta attached the finished dolls onto a hessian backing. Encouraged by her, the group brought their completed piece to the Linen Hall Library, Belfast, where it was unveiled at an event connected to the exhibition From Home to Here: Stories of Languages Old and New (November 2019).

As we engage with these doll characters occupying the hessian space, some with arms extended, let us remember the 4.4 MILLION asylum-seekers globally. UNHCR (2021)

How shall we extend our hand of friendship to those forcibly displaced from their own communities, who come to our community seeking asylum?

Owner: Conflict Textiles collection
Location: Roberta Bacic, Northern Ireland
Original / Replica: Original
Photographer: Martin Melaugh

Textile exhibited at: Reflections on Refugees: Communicating through Art, 29/03/2022 - 16/05/2022

Textile Detail Image(s)