Conflicts & War

Stitching Stories: Colombia conflict victims take to needle and thread

By Irene Escudero

Bogotá, Apr 9 (EFE).- The Colombia conflict victims have decided to use a needle and thread to tell their stories and rally around the institutions that address collective memory of the decades-long war.

On Friday when the country observed the annual solidarity day, Truth Commission covered its building with a large embroidered cloth, displaying the patterns and contours of the victims’ life.

There was an image of a woman being beaten before the innocent gaze of her children and the names of murdered women, together with motifs like trees and birds embroidered on the drapes displayed on the facade of the complex in Bogotá.

The giant drape spread across 540 square meters (5,812 square feet) of yellow, green, pink, blue fabrics embroidered with colors and stitches indicates the nuances of each truth, “thousands of kilometers of resistance” and “a framework that women are building with our weaving,” the participants explained in a virtual event.

“We want to make the collective sense of truth visible as a public good and as a possibility of a country where there’s room for all of us,” said Claudia Girón, of Kilometers of Life and Memory, one of the pioneers of the idea that began in 2019.

“It is like talking with the fabric, the needle and the thread; it is like writing a book but we do it from colors,” the participants said.

In those conversations, in the act of sewing to tell stories, questions arose, and knots were formed, of uncomfortable issues that came up within those who have suffered forced displacement, sexual violence, seen their family members disappear or be killed, or experienced pressure of a kidnapping.

It has been a non-linear task, which has involved processes of unstitching and “unraveling identities that are harmful to society as a whole” to create an imperfect product, with roughness and patches that metaphors that truth with edges that don’t deny the pain.

“When we sew, through the fabrics, we are generating new languages ??and new complaints,” said Virgelina Chará, an Afro-Colombian leader from the southwest department of Cauca, who suffered violence and displacement from a young age.

Apart from the seamstresses, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and daughters who traditionally knit have worked in this sewing process, as well as military personnel, ex-fighters, and relatives of the disappeared.

The objective was to create a great drape that includes a testimony, which is what the Truth Commission intends in its public hearings, and with the report that it has to deliver as a summary of these years of conversations between victims and perpetrators.

“We want to tell you today that we are completely with you, that your pain is our pain and your truth is our truth,” the president of the Commission, the Jesuit priest, Francisco de Roux, told the victims.

The idea of ??Friday’s event was also to rally around the Truth Commission, an entity that emerged from the peace agreement that has listened to the personal stories of more than 15,000 victims and collective accounts of the conflict and that many times has drawn criticism from the government and other critics.

There are 9,113,500 victims (almost 18 percent of the population) in Colombia, according to the Unique Victims Registry (RUV), including five million displaced people, almost 12,000 victims of anti-personnel mines, and at least 80,000 forced disappearances.

Also, 2,107 people were kidnapped by the former FARC rebel group between 1993 and 2012, for which the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) charged the former leaders of that guerrilla, and there were 6,402 “false positives”, victims of extrajudicial executions by the army, also investigated by that court. EFE


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