Friday, 2 December 2022

Textile Details

'Corte de leña / Chopping wood', Anonymous. (Photo: Martin Melaugh)
'Corte de leña / Chopping wood', Anonymous. (Photo: Martin Melaugh)


Title of Textile:Corte de leña / Chopping wood
Maker: Anonymous
Country of Origin: Chile
Year Produced: 1983c
Size (cm): 65.5cm (w) x 71cm (h) (inclusive of backing)
Materials: Scraps of material sewn onto burlap
Type of Textile: Arpillera

The muted colours in this early 1980s arpillera show the daily drudgery of poor Chileans, ascending and descending ladders as they chop trees for firewood for their household needs and for sale. We see two streets, one a darker shade than the other, conveying that no matter in which población they may reside, life for the Shantytown dweller is the same.

The dark grey material is from the trousers of a boy’s school uniform and the light grey fabric was originally a girl’s uniform skirt. The woman on the right nurses a bundle of sticks, signifying the importance of wood as a fuel source in this local area. The brightly coloured houses lift an otherwise drab scene, highlighting that despite the poverty, their homes – which they depict as full of light and brightness – are central to their lives.

When completed, this arpillera – like so many others made during the Pinochet dictatorship era – found its way to London via Chilean solidarity networks, where Jenny O’Neill bought it from a charity shop sometime in the 1990s as an act of solidarity. Jenny was keenly aware of the worsening political and economic situation in Chile, having lived in a communal house share with Chilean refugees in the 1970s, and through her involvement with a range of Peace and Justice issues in the 1980s. The image of Chileans chopping trees for firewood, appearing cold and miserable, with few alternatives, resonated deeply with her.

By showing these shantytown dwellers chopping trees, this arpillerista hints at the growing concern in the 1980s of deforestation, environmental destruction, climate change, a looming fuel crises and few alternatives for those trapped in poverty. Forty years later, the situation is much more stark and yet three billion people still rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating. UN environment programme, Sustainable Development Goal 7: clean and affordable energy

For people such as these with few choices, Mary Robinson (The Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice) as far back as 2006 called for a broadening of the climate change debate to incorporate climate justice: “Our continued existence on this shared planet demands that we agree to a fairer way of sharing out the burdens and benefits of life on earth”. She starkly reminds us that: “As our planet continues to warm and smoggy conditions increase, those living in low income parts of cities will inevitably suffer the most”. She challenges us to: “remember the rights of both today’s poor and tomorrow’s children” in the choices we make and in the actions we take.

Mary Robinson with Caitríona Palmer (2018) “Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future” Bloomsbury (p8, p12)

Owner: Conflict Textiles collection. Donation from Jenny O'Neill
Location: Roberta Bacic, Northern Ireland
Original / Replica: Original
Photographer: Martin Melaugh

Textile exhibited at: Threads for Corporate Justice workshop programme, 4/05/2022 - 31/08/2022
Threads for Corporate Justice, 11/10/2022 - 17/10/2022

Textile Detail Image(s)