The Alafia Mali (Peace in Mali) Quilts

Background

Background

Community at work in the Bamako Center

Community at work in the Bamako Center

The quilts shown on these pages were born out of the devastating war that swept the north of Mali in 2012. Tuareg rebels joined up with jihadist terrorists and seized the northern region, where they imposed a reign of terror on the inhabitants, especially women.

The rebellion was suppressed by a French armed intervention, but the region has remained unstable ever since. Hundreds of thousands of Malians fled from the north for the capital Bamako, or abroad. They included the artists who made the squares for these two spectacular quilts.

In 2013, AP developed a program with our Malian partner, Sini Sanuman, to support survivors of sexual violence from the war. The program was modeled on the work of SOS Femmes en Danger in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Sini Sanuman proposed to open two centers, in Bamako and Bourem, where survivors could spend up to three months relaxing in the company of other women and learning new skills. The proposal was submitted to Zivik, in Berlin, which funded our work with SOSFED in the DRC, and the two centers opened in June 2014. Our thanks to the Zivik team, which has helped to jump-start advocacy quilting by funding the Congo and Mali quilting projects.

Mariam Sidda Maiga, Bourem trainer

Mariam Sidda Maiga trained survivors at the Bourem center in embroidery

Over the next six months, 60 survivors received extensive training in embroidery, clothes-making and soap-making. The two trainers who taught embroidery took a very different approach. Oumou Toure, in Bamako, worked with bright cloth and urged the women to experiment. They produced exuberant patterns, but without a theme. Also, the quality was very uneven. In contrast, Mariam Sidda Maiga, in Bourem, (left) began with the basics of sewing learned from her own mother. Her pupils progressed more slowly but acquired deep skills, and it shows in the quality of their sewing.

In both centers, embroidery classes had a calming, therapeutic influence. This was well described by Peace Fellow Giorgia Nicatore in her blogs: “Embroidery is almost a magic tool that is able to, at once, create a sense of community (women sit and do the embroidery together, as pictured below) and also create a space in which to express themselves.”

embroidery 1000 px

Turning terror into art: women at the Bamako center describe their experience in 2012 through embroidery

By September, the trainers and their pupils in both centers were struggling to find a way to tell a story through embroidery. AP director Iain Guest visited in September for an evaluation and worked with Giorgia and the Sini Sanuman staff to come up with a solution. They visited the market and purchased new cloth and thread. Giorgia and Mariam Seck, a leading Sini Sanuman outreach worker then explained the DRC approach to embroidery to the women at the Bamako center. The next step was to hire two local artists to sit with the women and help them translate their ideas into pencil designs.

The survivors followed these designs as they embroidered their squares under the watchful eyes of their trainers. The Bamako women, who had fled in 2012, chose images that recalled the terror of the Tuareg attacks in 2012. The women in Bourem, who had not fled even though they are currently living much closer to the war, chose more gentle themes of village life.

By the end of 2014, the 60 survivors had produced about 70 squares of widely differing quality. Giorgia – whose dedication and good humor did much to sustain the project in Bamako – purchased Malian mud cloth to serve as quilt backing, and returned to the US with the squares and cloth. Together, Iain and Giorgia then handed the package over to the PM Fiber Arts Guild, to be assembled into quilts.

The finished product: This square shows a woman being flogged by a Jihadist in 2012.

The finished product: This square shows a woman being flogged by a Jihadist in 2012.

The quilters took on the entire range of tasks – designing, sewing, learning, paying for fabric and batting, and publicity. They were also able to benefit from a generous donation of Malian cloth from Yara African Fabrics. They divided the quilts into images of violence and images of serenity (mainly scenes of village life). Many of the images from the war quilt are explicit and show women being flogged and attacked (photo). The second quilt, in contrast, carries gentle images of canoes, camels and village life. The quilters took turns working on the quilts and then convened at their regular meetings in Bethesda to review progress.

The two quilts were delivered to AP in April and exhibited for the first time at the Long Beach Island Foundation in New Jersey (July). The following month, the two Mali quilts again featured in an exhibition at the Artists and Makers studio, in Rockville Maryland.

At the end of 2015, AP and Sini Sanuman began exploring ways to generate an income for the quilters. The final group of beneficiaries produced squares about camels that were brought back to the US and given to an experienced quilter, Merry May in new Jersey. We hope to sell Merry’s quilt, expected in the spring of 2016, and develop a market. In addition, the Bamako center has started to make shea butter soap for sale. This is described more on the Sini Sanuman partner page. To watch shea oil being produced in the villages, click here. To see soap being made in the Bamako center, click here.

The First Alafia Mali Quilt

The First Alafia Mali Quilt

DSC_1248

Front Side

DSC_1305

Back Side

DSC_1289

Village life in Mali

h1_L3IsgmMvFufn8FDYtNrCi2DLBYm8X_Z-A2Oj4mcc
DSC_1284 W4cSVASs2ELYH_8YxttX861UoLCjWngpise4fybOKtQ (1)

This panel depicts a woman fetching water and her village in the distance. In Mali, collecting water is considered a woman’s duty. Since sources of water are often far from villages, some women must walk several miles a day just to get water.

DSC_1260

Mother cooking with her children

3torXpG1acEjlLb68Vg2IvnWmRKR38w3Y-tD3x0vEMo
DSC_1283

A typical Malian home, made of mud and straw.

DSC_1252

Dromedary camels walking through the desert.

DSC_1274

Two women on a pirogue, a traditional West African fishing boat.

DSC_1255

Disheartened woman, drawn away from her daily tasks.

DSC_1287

Woman fetching water with cattle.

DSC_1267

A young girl who is injured

DSC_1265

A family going about their daily lives.

DSC_1270

A man bathing in a river.

The Second Alafia Mali Quilt

The Second Alafia Mali Quilt

 DSC_1392Front Side

DSC_1467

Back Side

DSC_1437 (2)

Woman running away from a thief

AHNLJQH5Xd1qp6_DTNjtk8BFA937N-6fnvsFp_rMLNY (1)
DSC_1403

Gang rape

-nE5PhJG2M15C7o-CFMMtnflvZwDJiN4oFQ1bB6apr8
DSC_1427

Rape victim

aVNL82pCoHq5JPlSP_EghDpMBtpmR_uaPsKT2z7G13w
DSC_1412

Rebels and the Malian military

tS0fB2D4jU0RfTbfaFimkL_n_jaxM6SOkxq9Yxhepaw
DSC_1425

Firing at a school bus

B95K1nX7_Ev-frM0VAi76o2uco1W5CjGp9_l2wyCtMI
DSC_1414

Man and camel

a_0mrmRiWQGMtjWIQGWE3q9to6ajmljKg7hTQnVc2sQ
DSC_1417

Military and rebels

OXRbLPODU8DrM2gLIc_0lLoMZg_KLPIwlDtg99vELdo
DSC_1430

French soldiers

UJ9tQll59Vtie3DLTtN3XGpWLdbz3hbil4HPXTFBp8w
DSC_1469 (1)

Woman and baby attacked

O3xcQCKQBo0b8EVjv0xK5lXKJNbVYg4OxEZrECGO8Cs (1)
DSC_1473

Woman ambushed

0B2rnyfBDVliMcrk-RSDLmmpx5L4cpnnNtx73kOBKQQ
DSC_1424

At gunpoint

udAYu6klmqVK49-kBAItI7mx8JGNsaqQC-TKT85ne4w
DSC_1448

Woman (right) helpless as the military fires at a young boy.

DSC_1400

Disrupted village

DSC_1438

Carnage

DSC_1419

Rebels

DSC_1434

Chaos

DSC_1407

Carnage

DSC_1472

The First Mali Camel Quilt

The First Mali Camel Quilt

 camelquiltsmaller

Mali 1

Mali 2

Mali 3

Mali 4

Mali 5

Mali 6

Mali 7

Mali 8

Mali 9

Mali 10

Mali 11

The Second Mali Camel Quilt

The Second Mali Camel Quilt

 Mali q 1

Mali q 2

Mali q3

Mali q 4

Mali q 5

mali q-6

Mali q 7

Mali q 8

Mali q 9

Mali q 10

Mali q 11

Mali q 12

Mali q 13

Mali q 14

The Third Mali Camel Quilt

The Third Mali Camel Quilt

 debbie anmd full quilt 1000

The Mali Camel Wall Hangings

The Mali Camel Wall Hangings

 1

2

 

AP on Flickr

A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr