Embroidery, Resilience, and Discovery: Embroidery as Healing in the Guajira Peninsula

Embroidery, Resilience, and Discovery: Embroidery as Healing in the Guajira Peninsula

Sarah Joy Baker (Eastern University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5981-8.ch007
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This chapter explores how embroidery as a visual mapping tool can address situations of historical trauma and increase community resilience through a process of conscientisation and grassroots organizing. The author will draw from her fieldwork with a group of indigenous Wayuu women in the Guajira Peninsula in northern Colombia, a region that has been significantly affected by climate change and decades of armed conflict. The women created embroidered maps of their daily lives, analyzed these maps for common themes and challenges, identified the root causes of the oppression they experience daily, and discussed action steps to address these power disparities. The author suggests that embroidery is a powerful healing tool for engaging indigenous women in a dignified manner by illuminating their narratives of resilience in order to address historical trauma.
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Embroidery is an effective tool that can be used to help indigenous women around the world reflect critically on their daily lives, and discover the inherent resilience they possess that allows them to navigate historical and ongoing trauma from a grassroots level. The author will draw from her fieldwork with a group of Wayuu indigenous women in northern Colombia who suffer multiple traumas as a result of poverty, climate change, large-scale development projects, and a decades-long civil war. This uncertain future is a subtle and ongoing form of trauma that challenges community autonomy, produces feelings of isolation and helplessness, and threatens their traditional way of life. Despite all of this, the Wayuu women remain resilient in the face of complicated macro pressures present in their territory.

In the following chapter, the author will explain how an embroidery mapping project was used to create a safe space for the participants to address their historical trauma by constructing a collective story through art. As they shared their embroidered maps with each other and analyzed them for common themes and challenges, the women entered into a time of critical reflection regarding the conspiring systems and structures that impact their unique way of life. This awareness-raising process forged new relationships among the women, and increased their sense of solidarity. Ultimately, they unearthed a reservoir of resilience to take action and address ongoing community needs using their local strengths and resources.

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