In June 12th 2019 I attended the opening to the exhibition “Pertenencias” in Buenos Aires Argentina. I was honored to be invited to exhibit a textile piece which was created within the Traveling Sewing Box Project during 2018 in partnership with ALAC as part of the amazing collection of textile pieces which were exhibited in the Museo Jose Hernandez. Pertenencias translates as Belongings and it’s an exhibition which addresses the issue of migrating women throughout the Southern Hemisphere and the need for sustaining their traditions and ancestral knowledge.

Textile piece by Maria Celia Belachur

Being part of this exhibition was a great experience for all of us involved. It meant that we needed to travel to Buenos Aires and share our stories of The Traveling Sewing Box with other migrant women from the Southern Hemisphere, with the local fashion academia and the local sustainable fashion industry. It was an eye opener to see how many amazing social and community projects are taking place in Argentina, my country of birth and to be able to learn from what they are doing.

The opening was on Wednesday the 12th, followed by an academic conference on the 13th in which there was lively debates around colonialism, cultural sustainability and the role that the fashion industry can play to enhance people’s lives. As part of this conference the team leader from ALAC, Felipe Forero, the representative of all the textile artists that were involved in the textile piece, Fanny Zabala and myself addressed the audience with a one hour presentation. We told our story and how the project got started. We also talked about ourselves as vehicles for creating a project which has the objective to sustain culture, integrate migrants into New Zealand society and generate better life opportunities for them.

Museum Director Felicitas Luna, Dean of Universidad de Palermo Oscar Echevarria, Research Director Marcia Veneziani and Curator Ximena Elicabe

Even though the Traveling Sewing Box Project is very much linked to the fashion industry through repurposing fabric waste generated by the local industry, it also provides a social service to the women who participate in it. Having gone through the project herself, Fanny Zabala shared her story of empowerment and hope and how the project has impacted her life in a positive way. She also had the opportunity to share her ancestral knowledge and experience of being a Latin woman who was forced to leave her home country and is now living in an English speaking country and in a totally different culture. It was a very heart felt talk which brought tears to most of the people in the audience. We were delighted that we had the New Zealand Embassador Raylene Liufalani and First Secretary Tane Waetford as part of the audience!

Felipe Forero, Victoria Martinez Azaro (me) and Fanny Zabala at the conference Pertenencias
Fanny Zabala, Raylene Liufalani, Victoria Martinez Azaro and Felipe Forero

The next few days were devoted to workshops and to learning skills. These workshops were taken by textile artists themselves like Mapuche weaver Maria Celia Belachu, them amazing embroiderer from Valles de Jujuy Hilda and many other amazing female textile artists.

Mapuche weaver Maria Celia Belachur
Embroidered from el Valle de Jujuy Hilda and Curator Ximena Elicabe

The four days came to a close with a very emotional and very important talk from Rosalia Gutierrez about indigenous cosmovision and some final reflections from our Traveling Sewing Box team member Fanny Zabala.

Rosalia Gutierrez and Fanny Zabala
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