Carmen Benavente, author of Embroiderers of Ninhue: Stitching Chilean Rural Life, spoke at Indiana University today about her experiences in Chile. In 1971 at a time of turmoil in Chile she found herself back in her home region. Surprised and frightened at the fear and mistrust she encountered upon arrival, she spent the night thinking over an idea – to invite the women of town to meet and share and learn embroidery.
I found her story compelling, in part because of how quickly a creative impulse could catch fire.
“Stitches afford a vocabulary for the designs,” said Carmen Benavente.
The women were hesitant at first, saying they couldn’t even draw a straight line. But by the second day many in the community were out in support. More of the community came out the second day and quickly she saw them give the “approval of the whole community and family and invest it in the work of the embroiderers”.
Within 8 weeks pieces created by the embroiderers of Ninhue were selected for a show at a gallery. She described the embroiderers’ looks and comments as they gathered their work for the show.
“I can imagine this to be their first encounter with their creativity,” said Benavente.
Many of the embroiderers’ were able to make good livings from selling tapestries, but they also felt great satisfaction at what they were creating.
The ability to ‘feel creative’ is a great gift.
Tough act to follow.
Today embroidery goes on, although the area is still recovering from the Chilean earthquake of 2010.