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British Academy Conference - Building Peace through Culture: Art, Memory, Landscape, Time


The Colombian Ambassador opened the conference with this welcome message.

The conference ended with a Festival of Latin American Art 


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Tejedoras de Mampuján: Hilos de amor y resistencia

Juana Alicia Ruíz Hernandez



El neoliberalismo como amenaza a la paz de los pueblos

Robinson Barría

From Salvador Allende and the Popular Unity to the recent Chilean protests and the new constitution. An alert from historic memory about the threat to social peace.

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Naomi Polonsky in conversation with Nengi Omuku

Naomi Polonsky, Assistant Curator of the New Hall Art Collection and Nengi Omuku, Nigerian artist

Omuku’s work is inspired by the politics of the body, with a focus on interiority and the workings of the mind.

She considers how individuals navigate place and belonging, constantly gathering and projecting a notion of identity; whether mentally, physically, or emotionally. Her paintings are inspired by archival photos as well as current news media she has witnessed in her birth country, Nigeria.

The images are rendered in oil paint and painted on strips of Sanyan; a pre-colonial Western Nigerian fabric, created from woven threads of wild moth silk and blended with industrial cotton. For the artist, the blend of oil paint and Sanyan speaks to living between cultures, yet firmly contextualizing her work within her local setting of Nigeria. Omuku has shown her work across the world, with institutional shows at La Galerie Centre d’Art Contemporain, Paris, the Shyllon Museum, Lagos, the World Trade Organization, Geneva and the New Hall Art Collection, Cambridge.

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Ukraine and Russian 

Volodymyr Sheiko, Director General of the Ukrainian Institute


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Missing Memorials: Making sense of loss in Cyprus

Dr Iosif Kovras, University of Cyprus

The chapter sheds light on the role of memorials as artistic expressions of the unresolved loss that families of missing persons experience in post-conflict settings. In doing so it focuses on the case of the Greek-Cypriot missing, where numerous memorials and museums being dedicated to the memory of victims of violence in the 1960s and the 1970s. The systematic study of public memorials can greatly improve our understanding of official narratives of victimhood, power relations between victims and the state, as well as physical expressions of (ambiguous) loss. Despite their significance, the study of memorials has received relatively little attention, particularly in relation to missing persons. The chapter seeks to address this gap by identifying and analyzing memorials established in the Republic of Cyprus since 1974. The case of Cyprus is selected for the sheer number of public memorials and museums dedicated to the missing. The chapter argues that in the absence of a body to mourn, families are trapped in a state of limbo; as such memorials serve as a physical manifestation of the presence of the ‘issue of the missing’ in public view, in turn, helping families making sense of the ‘ambiguous’ nature of their loss. At the same time, by conveniently reflecting the official discourse of the Republic of Cyprus on the violent past, memorials also exclude other narratives of victimhood from entering the public debates.

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How the History of the Everyday can Contribute a more Nuanced Understanding of Urban Conflict Memory

Dr Adrian Grant, Ulster University

Most people living in conflict zones tend to spend the majority of their time doing ordinary, everyday things. Activities like cooking, working, learning, and playing almost always form the dominant parts people’s lives, even those of combatants. For this reason, the history and memory of the everyday are intimately bound up with traumatic events and processes during and after violent conflict.


In this short paper I present a selection of examples from oral history interviews related to the everyday experience of the urban regeneration that took place in Derry during the early years of the Troubles. At this time, the built fabric of residential Derry was entirely changed through the clearance of older housing, and its replacement with modern lower-density housing and suburban sprawl. This was a process that was common in Western cities at this time, but is layered with a heightened emotional resonance due to the concurrent escalation of political violence in Northern Ireland at this time. Positive and negative memories have become attached to the existing built environment, and to physical artefacts that no longer exist. The paper begins to explore how the layers of experience of the Troubles can be contextualised by, in this example, looking through the lens of the built environment and how people living through a conflict relate to and interpret the physical changes to the city over time.

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Embroidering: Rhythms and Patterns of Stitching Together

Dr Emma Shercliff, Arts University Bournemouth

There are many examples of collectively stitched textiles that commemorate, memorialise or celebrate people, places or events. Attention is usually paid to the power of these works to represent and communicate narratives overlooked by conventional media. However, less attention has been given to how the particularities of the textile making processes themselves facilitate this extraordinary work. This short paper aims to shed some light on what might seem like an ordinary and unspectacular event - bringing people together to stitch - to reveal how the making skills and methods at the heart of these types of collective textile making activities create conditions for an extraordinary set of phenomena, where engagement in the making process itself allows us to reconfigure ways of seeing and understanding each other, a problem or a situation. I draw on my practical knowledge of and experience of observing, participating in and facilitating collective and collaborative textile making as well as recent research from the Stitching Together research network project to highlight key relational assets scaffolded by the rhythms and patterns of stitching together, such as:

  • Employing modular, networked approaches to overcome logistical challenges to large-scale collaborations

  • Building and testing resilience, developing emotional intelligence for listening to and telling difficult stories

  • Negotiating through complex barriers to communication by attending to embodied expertise.

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Constellations of Collaboration Textile Art in Latin America

Dr Lorna Dillon, University of Cambridge

This paper will discuss a supranational textile art movement that is emerging from Latin America. I explore the way textile art in Latin America is used to campaign for social justice. My case study is the Chilean group Memorarte, an art collective that makes arpilleras (appliqués). I am interested in the ways they use embroidery as a form of activism, which is intended to influence public opinion and public decisions.


Embroidery has had strong links to the Latin American supranational feminist movement. In this paper, I discuss the aggregation of spaces engaged by Memorarte as they discuss a multiplicity of issues through their art and exhibit twenty-first century arpilleras in a variety of ways. I consider the spaces they transverse, from the personal spaces where they sew together, to public spaces, where their embroideries form part of the signifying processes of protest marches. Memorarte also exhibit in galleries and on social media platforms, allowing the art works to articulate meanings for different audiences.


Embroidery groups in general - and Memorarte in particular - are an important part of twenty-first century feminism. Contemporary feminists such as Verónica Gago and Marta Malo argue that the current feminist internationalism operates through the transversality of feminist concerns. They speak of a common grammar among feminist struggles. What I am proposing here is that embroidery is a part of this common grammar. Within the syntax of feminism, embroidery has assumed a notable role.

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Catalysing Solidarity from Abroad by Sending out Dissident Art

Dr Jacqueline Adams, University of California, Berkeley

For ordinary people enduring impoverishment and a repressive and violent dictatorship, moral support and financial assistance from abroad mean a great deal. Yet if one has limited social capital and no contacts abroad, how are these to be obtained? A case from Chile suggests that setting up a system for smuggling art by these impoverished persons abroad, and selling it there, is effective as far as producing an income for the artists and giving them moral support are concerned. In Chile, impoverished women living in low-income neighborhoods in the capital city and rural townships, as well as women political prisoners and relatives of the disappeared, made textile art called arpilleras. The arpilleras depicted their and others’ experiences of impoverishment and repression, and their collective action aimed at coping with these problems and protesting. An ecumenical organization that was later integrated into the Archbishopric of Santiago helped the poor and the survivors of state violence; it encouraged the women to form groups and make arpilleras. It found Chilean refugees, human rights activists and Christian groups in Europe, North America, Australia, and Latin America, willing to sell the arpilleras to members of the public. The arpilleras provided these individuals, as well as the buyers of the arpilleras, with a way to express their solidarity with the arpilleras makers and with Chileans more broadly. This system of exporting and selling arpilleras in effect created a transnational community that catalysed and expressed solidarity. It brought the women an income and a sense that people abroad cared and would help them. It also enabled the arpillera groups in the shantytowns to continue to function, and in these groups, the women lent their support to others who were suffering because of the poverty and repression, and became active parts of the pro-democracy movement.

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Professor Marjorie Agosin, Wellesley College


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Bordando justicia para la paz

Erika Silva Urbano, Colectivo Memorarte and Universidad de Valparaíso

Talk on Chilean arpilleras.

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Grassroots Monuments and Memory Practices in Colombia: The Memory Wall of Zoscua, Boyacá

Professor Claire Taylor, University of Liverpool

In this paper I analyse the memory practices of Corporación Zoscua, a small, grassroots activist group within Colombia representing victims of the armed conflict within the region of Boyacá. After an initial grounding within the broader context of transitional justice and historical memory debates within Colombia, I focus on how Zoscua’s practices constitute a form of tactical, vernacular memory-making from below that involves temporary alliances and negotiations in order to make interventions into the mnemonic spaces of the city. I highlight firstly how the choice of location of the wall constitutes a tactical take-over of public space, with grassroots memory being inserted into a conventionally top-down space that conveys official, state-sponsored national values. Secondly, I consider the practices and negotiations involved in designing and building the wall, and subsequently focus on the content of the wall, with particular attention to the collective and collaborative nature of the artwork that, through its imagery, composition and calls to affect, contests the high-art values normally associated with monumental practices.

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Approaching Peace Signatories in Colombia through Narrative Practices and Textile Resonances

Professor Berit Bliesemann de Guevara, Aberystwyth University and Dr Beatriz Arias, University of Antioquia

In this presentation, we will introduce our work with peace signatories of the former guerrilla group FARC in Colombia, whose experiences we explored through the method of textile narratives. We will introduce the method via our digital platform and explain the relationship between the textile narratives and the narrative practices approach which underpins it. Finally we develop the idea of textile resonances which guides the project's dissemination aspect through exhibitions and workshops, explaining how textile narratives can be turned into textile conversations.


Visions of Peace in International Relations

Dr David Shim, University of Groningen

In this article, we engage with IR's recently rediscovered interest in peace and connect it with the visual turn in international relations. We move the field's focus on representations of war to representations of peace and develop the concept of peace photography. We suggest both understanding photography as a social agent promoting visions of peace and incorporating analysis of peace photography into IR's emerging agenda on peace. Our illustrative examples show that it is insufficient to think about and analyze visual images only in connection with representations of large scale violence and interstate war. In contrast, we provide an alternative approach which aims to broaden our understanding of (the study of) peace in IR. First, we explore a positive conception of peace at the individual and everyday level of analysis. Second, we advocate methodological pluralism by examining different analytical sites of peace photography. Third, we concentrate on the potentialities of peace photography in Colombia and Brazil—notorious spaces of everyday violence. We argue that the analytical perspectives developed in this paper have also relevance beyond our examples: If peace photography can be found here, than it can also be found elsewhere. Put differently, everyday visions of peace constitute particular instances of the international.

Isabel González

El Archivo Digital de Textiles Testimoniales del Conflicto Armado en Colombia - ADTTC

Isabel González, University of Antioquia and Archivo Digital de Textiles Testimoniales de Colombia


es un espacio digital para la documentación, conservación, consulta y puesta en valor de prácticas textiles testimoniales: documentos, artefactos y repertorios de memoria realizados por grupos de mujeres que por más de 20 años y en distintos lugares de la geografía nacional, han creado documentos textiles que dan cuenta de sus trayectorias y luchas en medio del conflicto armado. Concebido como un archivo de derechos humanos, ofrece un modelo de documentación, que integra las dimensiones políticas y materiales, en el que la pieza textil no es producto, sino proceso de conocimiento y representación que da cuenta del carácter narrativo del quehacer artesanal textil como medio, lenguaje y escenario creativo. Así, el ADTTCC considera cada textil como un documento no textual, un testimonio y un repertorio de resistencia y de acción política en el que los haceres textiles son gramática para reconstruir memorias, elaborar duelos, denunciar y exigir verdad y justicia en tiempos de transición en Colombia.

Este archivo emerge como resultado de un largo proceso de intercambio de saberes, espacios de encuentros y proyectos conjuntos con colectivos textiles e investigadoras que han reflexionado sobre las narrativas textiles en el país. En este proceso se han identificado cerca de 30 iniciativas, de las cuales 10 se han documentado hasta ahora. Documentar para el archivo implica el encuentro y el trabajo colectivo para contextualizar y situar los acontecimientos que se narran textilmente con miras a registrar y hacer pedagogía para la creación de archivos comunitarios de documentos no convencionales. Este proceso crea conexiones entre las piezas textiles y los colectivos y permite explorar nuevas formas del archivo para conservar y difundir estos procesos y repertorios a diferentes audiencias para su consulta y estudio.


Palabras Clave: Textiles testimoniales, narrativas textiles, archivos DDHH, conflicto armado, transición política

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