This is a detail from a large cuadro. Peruvian textile wall hangings that depict life in the barrios, or shantytowns, outside of Lima, Peru. They are embroidered and appliquéd using scraps of cotton and other materials by women living and working in Pamplona Alta. There, as in much of Peru, living conditions have grown worse through the past years; political instability and economic hardship, combined with the terrorism and military repression during the 1980s, challenge and threaten ordinary daily life. Throughout the turmoil women have worked to provide sustenance and stability for their families. The making of cuadros represents an art of survival, which documents their struggle while providing a source of income.
Many of the cuadros have small pockets sewn into the back of them – where the maker will write a message that tells the story of the image. They are similar to Chilean arpilleras, also made by women who used those pocketed messages to send a message about what was happening in their country, the disappearance of family members and other atrocities.
The small detail of this particular cuadro portrays a memory of a place. The place where the maker grew up and raised her family – before it was destroyed by political forces who forced them out of their homes.
Below is a virtual landscape – another detail, a different maker. What I like about wandering around Apple Fall (created by a person called Apple Fall) is the attention to detail. Not only in the landscape, but also in the many detailed object that he has for sale in the shops on the property.
The last time I was there I met the most unusual avatar – see him standing behind that chair? He looks like a walking tree – and in the course of having a conversation with him, his leaves turned colors and he went through all four seasons. The light spring green leaves, which changed to a rich deep green – then orange and yellow that all blew off. He only stayed bare for seconds – until the small green buds of spring leaves were back.
You can also see some beautifully made fern terrariums. I love coming across these in Second Life – and beginning to have quite a collections of them – maybe a future post.
A book I come back to again and again when I am thinking about landscape is The Language of Landscape by Anne Whiston Spirn. She writes:
Landscapes themselves harbor both genetic and cultural diversity, and collectively, human habitats comprise a recored of diverse adaptations to similar conditions. That diversity of response is a resource to be treasured. Some day we may have to sift through the human repertoire for answers to difficult questions.
DIVIDING/UNITING. Children bused miles away to visit nature when all around them are products of natural processes: water flowing, earth subsiding, wildflowers and sumacs growing in vacant lots, making soil from rubble and detritus. Such an absurdity comes from dividing the world into pieces, nature/not nature and so on, habits that prevent a grasp of the whole…….To see similarities among disparate things is at the heart of creativity. Oxymorons allow us to achieve a difficult unity while experiencing the separateness of the parts.
That line about sifting through the human repertoire for answers to difficult questions is already happening. It is what draws people to Detroit currently, to examine and photograph the abandon factories and blocks of burned out and demolished houses. It is the reason that cuadros remain popular and a source of income for the women who make them – and it is, in part, the reason I wander through SL looking for small things worth seeing.