For my latest adventure in liturgical textile art, I am making a banner for Familia de Fe, a Latino Presbyterian new church development in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The congregation, which has been building over the past few years, meets in the chapel space of a larger Presbyterian church. When I answered Pastor Walter Chuquimia’s call and came to view the space, we discussed the fact that though the room is adequate, even warm, it contains no indication of the lively Latin American culture of the people who meet there. Members of the congregation come from many different Central and South American countries including Mexico, Bolivia, Ecuador, Columbia.
Behind the pulpit, is an alcove measuring slightly more than six feet tall and twelve feet across, the measurements of the banner we agreed upon (BIG). Pastor Chuquimia (who is from Bolivia) brought me a framed reproduction of a work by Bolivian artist, Mamani Mamani, reporting that members of the congregation have expressed a preference for the banner to contain the vivid colors of this contemporary artist.
As Pastor Chuquimia and I talked, the Holy Spirit entered in and almost simultaneously, we came to the idea of a banner depicting the “homeland” of the congregation, with a big white church (iglesia) at the center of the landscape. The view will be that of a blended homeland for people of different countries having distinct cultures. For instance, the image of a volcano may evoke memories of Popocatepetl for people from central Mexico, while reminding immigrants from Bolivia of supervolcano Uturuncu. Also, people from Peru may notice elements of an Incan heritage, while Mexican Americans may identify with images of Aztec tradition on the banner.
With Minneapolis (seen on the sketch far away between the mountains) as the great melting pot, the textile artist will attempt to blend all of this on one banner. Though the sketch may appear to be sparse now, the finished banner will be densely populated with people and their gardens, flower fields, buses and cars; people drying fish, dancing, weaving, raising llamas, cows, swans, etc. The banner will go up in two phases. It will be hung at the end of Phase One, when the entire background of the landscape will be finished – sky, sun, mountains, church, fields, roads, ocean, etc. During Phase Two, the banner will continue to hang except for brief periods as elements are added, probably in locality chunks, i.e. the ocean area, the plaza area, the flower growing fields and so on.
For inspiration, my design draws on Mexican folk art and the arpilleras of the women of Peru and Chile. (see below). Arpilleras are small textile works done by hand, often by a group of women, depicting their life and struggles, and often their protests against injustice. The arpillera below is entitled “March of the Coal Miners’ Daughters.” It is also my intent to include hidden pieces done in the style of a great artist from each country such as perhaps a statue in the style of Botero of Columbia, and mountains with fields that look like quilts as would Carmen Garcia of Nicaragua (see second piece below).
In the future, it is my intent that members of the congregation will become involved in the actual construction of the banner. I am hopeful that this will come together by the end of Phase One, when people can see what is happening. I am not able to work on the banner in the church housing Familia de Fe, so curiosity is not yet being stirred but, God willing, that will come along in due time, as people see their HOME coming to life.
Opportunity for YOU to be involved: I need BRIGHTLY colored remnants you may have taking up room in your stash. 12’x6’ is a lot of area to cover and my stash and scraps tend toward darks. I can also use brights with the Latinas I work with on Tuesdays. Contact me and we can figure out a pickup – firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!