Haitian quilts at Bennington Museum

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The Berkshire Eagle has just published an extensive article about the project that led to an exhibit of Haitian quilts at the Bennington Museum (see our earlier post on the exhibit Bennington Museum to display Haitian quilts). Jamie Franklin, curator of collections at the Museum, recently celebrated the opening of “Patience to Raise the Sun: Art Quilts from Haiti,” an initiative that would not have become a reality without the help of a number of people and organizations. “The inception of this show is rooted in a humanitarian project based in a Haitian Catholic school,” Franklin said. “The project, PeaceQuilts, is a non-profit organization, and its U.S. coordinator lives in Bennington.” Here are some excerpts from the article, which you can access in its entirety through the links below.

An island nation in the Caribbean, Haiti has had no indigenous quilting tradition — until a few years ago, when students at the Centre Menager, a job training program run by the College Marie Reine Immaculée in Lilavois, began making the colorful, elaborately quilted textiles that are the subject of Franklin’s show. The women who were part of the quilting program quickly showed aptitude in adapting traditional Anglo-American, African-American and African textile and quilting techniques and styles and combined them with their own uniquely Haitian sensibility to create a new art form. Franklin said that this transition was a natural by-product of knowledge that the women already had acquired. “Haitian women have a deeply rooted tradition of making elaborately embroidered textiles,” Franklin said. “These include shirts, table clothes, and skirts made for a once booming tourist market and brilliantly sequined flags, known as drapo, originally used to attract Iwa, or spirits, to Voodou ceremonies. Women typically learn embroidery at a young age in Haiti, a skill passed from mother to daughter in small villages throughout the country.”

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. . .

The show is organized in four parts. The first covers quilts based on nature: rich valleys, foliage, trees, fruits, fish, and many other such examples. A section of Biblical quilts follow, since the women were working with nuns in a Catholic center. Franklin said that the presence of Voodou overtones in some of these quilts shows a synthesis of Roman Catholic and West African traditions. Another part is dedicated to proverb quilts, works that show the Haitian oral tradition as a defining characteristic of the island’s culture.

Finally, there are quilts that adapt past quilting traditions, such as the North American, but with a uniquely Haitian flavor.

The 22 quilts will eventually become a traveling show which will draw interest from institutions centered on crafts, Franklin said. All the quilts are for sale, to be released whenever the show’s life span ends, and other quilts not selected for the show will be for sale in the musem’s gift shop.

“The end result of PeaceQuilts was that these remarkable women make a living from their art,” Franklin said. “Some of the primary quilts are already sold in advance, so we can safely say that PeaceQuilts is not only offering the arts world a unique look at craft genesis, but is also fulfilling its initial promise.”

The exhibit runs through November 8.

For the complete article go to http://www.berkshireeagle.com/ci_13410124?source=most_emailed

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