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Following the footsteps of the disappeared

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To mark International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances 30 August the Ulster Museum, Ulster University and Conflict Textiles are collaborating in a programme of events:

30th August - 2pm UK time: The launch of the virtual exhibition Following the footsteps of the disappeared, hosted by Ulster Museum, Belfast (30th August 2020 – 30th August 2021) on the theme of the search for the disappeared, and dedicated to the relatives of the disappeared. It comprises 20 textiles – predominantly arpilleras - from Chile, Peru, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. Through the stitched scraps of fabric – some of it remnants of clothing belonging to a disappeared person - we are confronted with the agony of the families as they search for their relatives’ remains and pursue their relentless quest for justice.

Online seminars:

31st August, 2pm UK time Transnational Experiences of Enforced Disappearances

31st August, 4pm UK time The Search for the Disappeared: textile and art expressions.

Full live archive to the exhibition can be accessed on Following the footsteps of the disappeared

For Paul, Disappeared 8 February 2012

For Paul, Disappeared 8 February 2012

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La Valija de la Memoria de Hernan / Hernan's Memory box

La Valija de la Memoria de Hernan / Hernan's Memory box

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La Cueca Sola / Dancing Cueca alone

La Cueca Sola / Dancing Cueca alone

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Recuperación de cuerpos en 1990 / Recovering the disappeared in 1990

Recuperación de cuerpos en 1990 / Recovering the disappeared in 1990

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Minhas memórias da ditadura / My memories of the dictatorship

Minhas memórias da ditadura / My memories of the dictatorship

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Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Ahora y Siempre Presentes / Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Now and Always Present

Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Ahora y Siempre Presentes / Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Now and Always Present

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They Fell like Stars from the Sky / Cayeron del cielo como estrellas

They Fell like Stars from the Sky / Cayeron del cielo como estrellas

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Recuerdos de Guadalupe / Guadalupe's Longings

Recuerdos de Guadalupe / Guadalupe's Longings

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¿Dónde están los desaparecidos? / Where are the "disappeared"?

¿Dónde están los desaparecidos? / Where are the "disappeared"?

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Panfleteando en el 1979 en Santiago / Leafleting in Santiago in 1979

Panfleteando en el 1979 en Santiago / Leafleting in Santiago in 1979

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Hilvanando la búsqueda / Stitching the search

Hilvanando la búsqueda / Stitching the search

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Disappeared

Disappeared

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The Earth Always Remembers / La TIERRA siempre recuerda

The Earth Always Remembers / La TIERRA siempre recuerda

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Encadenamiento / Women Chained to Parliament Gates

Encadenamiento / Women Chained to Parliament Gates

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Hornos de Lonquén / Lime kilns of Lonquén

Hornos de Lonquén / Lime kilns of Lonquén

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Ausencias - Presencias 2 / Absences – Presences 2

Ausencias - Presencias 2 / Absences – Presences 2

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Presencia de Edime Peirano / Edime Peirano's Presence

Presencia de Edime Peirano / Edime Peirano's Presence

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Paz - Justicia - Libertad / Peace - Justice – Freedom

Paz - Justicia - Libertad / Peace - Justice – Freedom

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Nos hacen falta / We miss them

Nos hacen falta / We miss them

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Sala de torturas / Torture chamber

Sala de torturas / Torture chamber

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Image:

For Paul, Disappeared 8 February 2012

Image: For Paul, Disappeared 8 February 2012. Zimbabwean arpillera, Shari Eppel, 2018. Photo Shari Eppel. Shari Eppel collection
For Paul, Disappeared 8 February 2012. Zimbabwean arpillera, Shari Eppel, 2018. Photo Shari Eppel. Shari Eppel collection

Paul Chizuzu, a stalwart defender of human rights for over three decades during the Mugabe era, went missing on 8th February 2012.

Six years later, his colleague and friend Shari Eppel remembers him through this arpillera. With soft layers of cloth, she creates his grave and cocoons him in the brown earth, at rest. She reflects: “… It is ironic that we work with families of the disappeared (in the Ukuthula Trust), and then experienced first-hand the shock and despair of losing someone we cared about so deeply”.

La Valija de la Memoria de Hernan / Hernan's Memory box

Image: La Valija de la Memoria de Hernan / Hernan's Memory box. Closed cardboard box with rolled bandage inside. Ana Zlatkes, Argentina, 2019. Photo Ana Zlatkes. Conflict Textiles collection
La Valija de la Memoria de Hernan / Hernan's Memory box. Closed cardboard box with rolled bandage inside. Ana Zlatkes, Argentina, 2019. Photo Ana Zlatkes. Conflict Textiles collection

Hernan Nuguer, a 26 year old student, was kidnapped by Navy task forces on October 27th, 1977. Over forty years later, Ana reconnects us with him through his yellowing bandage passed on from his 95 year old mother Juana. In the cardboard box Ana placed a page from his brother Jaime’s book “Un habeas corpus en dictadura” (2015) relating to the case.

In his 2013 court statement, Jaime, who has maintained a relentless search for justice, stated. "… our struggle continues to know what was the fate of my brother … and … all the other disappeared persons. It is a debt that Argentine society still owes to us...”

La Cueca Sola / Dancing Cueca alone

Image: La Cueca Sola / Dancing Cueca alone. Chilean arpillera, Anonymous, 1989. Photo Martin Melaugh. Oshima Hakko Museum collection, Japan. In the care of Conflict Textiles collection
La Cueca Sola / Dancing Cueca alone. Chilean arpillera, Anonymous, 1989. Photo Martin Melaugh. Oshima Hakko Museum collection, Japan. In the care of Conflict Textiles collection

Here we see women solo dancing the Cueca, Chile’s national dance, which represents the different emotions and stages of romance and is traditionally danced in pairs. These women dance alone, dressed in severe black and white, wearing the image of their “disappeared” loved one over their hearts - their way of publically denouncing the government’s actions.

Their courage and creativity inspired the Sting song “They dance alone”. La Cueca Sola, of which there are many versions, remains an iconic symbol of Chilean women’s resistance to the Pinochet regime.

Recuperación de cuerpos en 1990 / Recovering the disappeared in 1990

Image: Recuperación de cuerpos en 1990 / Recovering the disappeared in 1990. Chilean arpillera, Taller Fundación Solidaridad, 1990. Photo Martin Melaugh. Professor Masaaki Takahashi, Japan. In the care of Conflict Textiles collection
Recuperación de cuerpos en 1990 / Recovering the disappeared in 1990. Chilean arpillera, Taller Fundación Solidaridad, 1990. Photo Martin Melaugh. Professor Masaaki Takahashi, Japan. In the care of Conflict Textiles collection

With its graphic depiction of recovered bodies, this arpillera conveys the scale of disappearances and human rights abuses perpetrated by the Pinochet regime. In a letter tucked in a small pocket on the reverse side, arpillerista Maria Hermosina Donoso writes: “We are just emerging from the punishment of the dictatorship ... There have been found many dead bodies, with their hands tied up to their back, close to the places they were buried alive.”

Through this arpillera these women have publicly highlighted the truth about the fate of their disappeared loved ones, a truth long denied by the authorities.

Minhas memórias da ditadura / My memories of the dictatorship

Image: Minhas memórias da ditadura / My memories of the dictatorship. Brazilian arpillera, Taller Vicaría de la Solidaridad, 2012. Photo Tony Boyle. Conflict Textiles collection
Minhas memórias da ditadura / My memories of the dictatorship. Brazilian arpillera, Taller Vicaría de la Solidaridad, 2012. Photo Tony Boyle. Conflict Textiles collection

Through this arpillera, Fatima revisits what she witnessed as a nine year old in her home town of Recife following the 1964 Brazilian coup, which deposed President Goulart and ushered in a military regime which lasted until 1985.

“Suddenly, around 9am, my parents closed … their little shop. Lorries loaded with military … ordered people to lock themselves and be silent. They surrounded the house of Mr. Popô, a neighbour who talked a lot with people in his home… Mr Popô disappeared…”

Workshop facilitator Esther Vital Garcia recalls Fátima being fascinated with the power of arpilleras: “to create spaces in which individual stories and experiences could be connected”.

Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Ahora y Siempre Presentes / Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Now and Always Present

Image: Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Ahora y Siempre Presentes / Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Now and Always Present. Argentinean arpillera, Students from Escuela de Cerámica, 2013. Photo Martin Melaugh. Conflict Textiles collection
Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Ahora y Siempre Presentes / Irene, Marta, Hilda, Patricia: Now and Always Present. Argentinean arpillera, Students from Escuela de Cerámica, 2013. Photo Martin Melaugh. Conflict Textiles collection

In May 1977, a year into the Videla dictatorship in Argentina, four young female students from Escuela de Cerámica / Pottery College disappeared without trace. One of them was pregnant.

Decades later the college remembers them through this arpillera created by present day students. The title phrase epitomises the enduring legacy and presence of these young women whose human rights were denied by the state.

They Fell like Stars from the Sky / Cayeron del cielo como estrellas

Image: They Fell like Stars from the Sky / Cayeron del cielo como estrellas. Republic of Ireland arpillera, Deborah Stockdale, 2013. Photo Martin Melaugh. Deborah Stockdale collection
They Fell like Stars from the Sky / Cayeron del cielo como estrellas. Republic of Ireland arpillera, Deborah Stockdale, 2013. Photo Martin Melaugh. Deborah Stockdale collection

In this arpillera, Deborah remembers the estimated 30,000 people who disappeared in Argentina during the seven year military dictatorship led by Lieutenant General Videla, 1976–1983.

Figures falling through the night sky represent bodies thrown from aeroplanes. Below, the Abuelas (Grandmothers) circle Plaza de Mayo, keeping vigil for their disappeared loved ones. The middle area and reverse side embody tangible memories from Miguel Angel de Boer’s young wife María, 'disappeared' in the 1970s.

Recuerdos de Guadalupe / Guadalupe's Longings

Image: Recuerdos de Guadalupe / Guadalupe's Longings. Peruvian arpillera, Guadalupe Ccallocunto, 1989. Photo Martin Melaugh. Roberta Bacic private collection
Recuerdos de Guadalupe / Guadalupe's Longings. Peruvian arpillera, Guadalupe Ccallocunto, 1989. Photo Martin Melaugh. Roberta Bacic private collection

Guadalupe, from Ayacucho became active in human rights after her husband disappeared during the war between the Peruvian government and the Shining Path movement, (1980 - 2000). When she fled to Chile in 1990 to escape death threats she made this arpillera from dolls’ dresses, while staying a few days with her friend Roberta.

She portrays women and children preparing food; an age old, universal ritual. Materials are gathered in preparation for the workshop she planned on her return to Peru. On 10th June 1990, shortly after going back, she disappeared after being abducted from her home by the military in the presence of her four children.

¿Dónde están los desaparecidos? / Where are the "disappeared"?

Image: ¿Dónde están los desaparecidos? / Where are the "disappeared"? Chilean arpillera, Irma Müller, 1980s. Photo Martin Melaugh. Conflict Textiles collection. Provenance Kinderhilfe arpillera collection, Chile/Bonn
¿Dónde están los desaparecidos? / Where are the "disappeared"? Chilean arpillera, Irma Müller, 1980s. Photo Martin Melaugh. Conflict Textiles collection. Provenance Kinderhilfe arpillera collection, Chile/Bonn

“Where are the detained-disappeared?” is the question posed by this group of women protesting in front of the Courts of Justice in the presence of armed police.

According to the Observatorio de Justicia Transicional, Universidad Diego, (Santiago de Chile), just over 3,200 people are currently recognised by the Chilean state as having been killed or disappeared by the Pinochet dictatorship. Around 1,200 of those were forcibly disappeared; of those, close to 1,000 are still missing. (Information checked July 2020).
Observatorio Derechos Humanos

Panfleteando en el 1979 en Santiago / Leafleting in Santiago in 1979

Image: Panfleteando en el 1979 en Santiago / Leafleting in Santiago in 1979. Chilean arpillera, Anonymous, 1979. Photo Martin Melaugh. Conflict Textiles collection. Provenance Jacquie Monty, England (deceased)
Panfleteando en el 1979 en Santiago / Leafleting in Santiago in 1979. Chilean arpillera, Anonymous, 1979. Photo Martin Melaugh. Conflict Textiles collection. Provenance Jacquie Monty, England (deceased)

Here we see campaigners distributing pamphlets to pedestrians and drivers to raise awareness about the "disappeared." The sun, a prominent feature in Chilean arpilleras, is absent, perhaps symbolising the dangers of this era. The large houses indicate that the protesters have brought their campaign into a middle-class area.

Just over 3,200 people are currently recognised by the Chilean state as having been killed or disappeared by the Pinochet dictatorship. Around 1,200 of those were forcibly disappeared; of those, close to 1,000 are still missing.
(Observatorio de Justicia Transicional, Universidad Diego, Santiago de Chile. Information checked July 2020).
Observatorio Derechos Humanos

Hilvanando la búsqueda / Stitching the search

Image: Hilvanando la búsqueda / Stitching the search. Chilean arpillera, Nicole Drouilly, 2014. Photo Roser Corbera. Conflict Textiles collection
Hilvanando la búsqueda / Stitching the search. Chilean arpillera, Nicole Drouilly, 2014. Photo Roser Corbera. Conflict Textiles collection

On 30th October 1974, social work student Jacqueline Drouilly and her husband, Marcelo Salinas Eytel were abducted from their home in Santiago by the security police. Jacqueline’s family never saw her again, never recovered her remains and never knew the fate of her unborn baby.
Memoriaviva - Jacqueline Paulette Drouilly Yurich

In this quilt, Nicole Drouilly shares memories of her older sister and their unending search for her beginning with, “the search … for a living person,” gradually realising they would not find Jacqueline alive, and finally, facing the reality of “never see[ing] her again”.
For Nicole this quilt provides solace: “the geometrical designs …give order to chaos ….”

Disappeared

Image: Disappeared. Northern Ireland textile piece, Irene MacWilliam, 2016. Photo Irene MacWilliam. Conflict Textiles collection
Disappeared. Northern Ireland textile piece, Irene MacWilliam, 2016. Photo Irene MacWilliam. Conflict Textiles collection

Outrage at the scale of forced disappearances during the Videla dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983) seeded this textile. In this seven year period, the number of people believed to have been killed or “disappeared,” depending on the source, ranges from 7,158 to 30,000. Irene stitched figures of people onto black fabric and then cut through the images, leaving voids to signify their disappearance. Through these voids, words such as “fear,” “denied” and “disappeared “ are visible on the red backing cloth; a chilling reminder of the fate of the disappeared in Argentina, here in her native Northern Ireland and globally.

The Earth Always Remembers / La TIERRA siempre recuerda

Image: The Earth Always Remembers / La TIERRA siempre recuerda. Republic of Ireland arpillera, Deborah Stockdale, 2018. Photo Deborah Stockdale. Deborah Stockdale collection
The Earth Always Remembers / La TIERRA siempre recuerda. Republic of Ireland arpillera, Deborah Stockdale, 2018. Photo Deborah Stockdale. Deborah Stockdale collection

The 'War on Drugs', declared by former Mexican President Calderón in 2006, has claimed the lives of over 150,000 people. In that same period there were over 27,000 cases of disappearances. Frustration at the lack of access to information and case files leads families to take up the search themselves. Amnesty International - Mexico disappearances.

Here Deborah depicts them searching “in remote areas where there are signs of rough burials, [using] metal probes to find bones, remains, clothing and sometimes human ashes”.

The all enveloping earth eyes, keeping vigil with them, poses a powerful challenge to President Obrador, inaugurated in 2018.

Encadenamiento / Women Chained to Parliament Gates

Image: Encadenamiento / Women Chained to Parliament Gates. Chilean arpillera, Anonymous, 1980s. Photo Martin Melaugh. Conflict Textiles collection. Provenance Arpillera collection, Kinderhilfe, Chile/Bonn
Encadenamiento / Women Chained to Parliament Gates. Chilean arpillera, Anonymous, 1980s. Photo Martin Melaugh. Conflict Textiles collection. Provenance Arpillera collection, Kinderhilfe, Chile/Bonn

This group of women chained themselves to the gates in front of Congress in protest at the actions of the Pinochet regime, particularly the disappearance of their loved ones. All the women who joined the protest were detained for five days.

When asked how they found the strength to keep going, their replies emphasize their resilience: “We’ve been hit by so many blows in life. We might as well be out on the frontlines now because many of us have nothing more to lose.” (Agosín, 2008)

Hornos de Lonquén / Lime kilns of Lonquén

Image: Hornos de Lonquén / Lime kilns of Lonquén. Chilean arpillera, Anonymous, c1979. Photo Tony Boyle. Conflict Textiles collection. Provenance Joanne Sheehan, USA
Hornos de Lonquén / Lime kilns of Lonquén. Chilean arpillera, Anonymous, c1979. Photo Tony Boyle. Conflict Textiles collection. Provenance Joanne Sheehan, USA

This arpillera shows us how the relatives of the disappeared persevered in their struggle to demand the truth, find their disappeared relatives and mourn them.

On 7 October 1973, 15 peasant men from Isla de Maipo were arrested. For five years, the families went to jails and detention centres, searching for their relatives. In November 1978, acting on a secret testimony, the Vicaría de la Solidaridad searched the disused lime kiln in Lonquén and recovered the bodies of the 15 men, who were thrown alive into the lime kiln.

This case shocked the Chilean nation and brought home to relatives that “disappeared” usually meant dead.

Ausencias - Presencias 2 / Absences – Presences 2

Image: Ausencias - Presencias 2 / Absences – Presences 2. Argentinean arpillera, Ana Zlatkes, 2015. Photo Martin Melaugh. Conflict Textiles collection
Ausencias - Presencias 2 / Absences – Presences 2. Argentinean arpillera, Ana Zlatkes, 2015. Photo Martin Melaugh. Conflict Textiles collection

The Nunca Más (Never Again) report (1984) estimated that up to 9000 cases of forced disappearance and other human rights violations were perpetrated during the Videla dictatorship in Argentina (1976 - 1983). Approximately 30% of victims were women. Those who gave birth in detention centres were generally killed and many of their babies were taken by military or political families.

Here, the Abuelas (Grandmothers) de Plaza de Mayo march around the obelisk in front of the government buildings. Every Thursday, since 1977, they march; denouncing the disappearance of loved ones and demanding answers.

Presencia de Edime Peirano / Edime Peirano's Presence

Image: Presencia de Edime Peirano / Edime Peirano's Presence. Argentinean arpillera, Ana Zlatkes, 2018. Photo Ana Zlatkes. Conflict Textiles collection
Presencia de Edime Peirano / Edime Peirano's Presence. Argentinean arpillera, Ana Zlatkes, 2018. Photo Ana Zlatkes. Conflict Textiles collection

Edime Peirano was a 25 year old Argentinean lawyer who disappeared on the 15th April 1977. She was taken to ESMA (The School of Mechanics of the Navy), a torture centre in Buenos Aires, sedated, bundled into a plane and thrown out alive into the Rio de la Plata river. Over 40 years later, Ana Zlatkes picks up the threads. On Edime’s sweater, she embroidered a forest from the sweater threads. Edime’s sister Alicia imagines that: “maybe the last things she saw were the trees … before [being] thrown into the … river”.

In November 2017, fifty four people were indicted for crimes committed at ESMA. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-42175752

Paz - Justicia - Libertad / Peace - Justice – Freedom

Image: Paz - Justicia - Libertad / Peace - Justice – Freedom. Chilean arpillera, Anonymous, 1970s. Photo Colin Peck. Conflict Textiles collection. Provenance Alba Sanfeliú, Spain
Paz - Justicia - Libertad / Peace - Justice – Freedom. Chilean arpillera, Anonymous, 1970s. Photo Colin Peck. Conflict Textiles collection. Provenance Alba Sanfeliú, Spain

In this arpillera women have taken to the streets to denounce the human rights abuses of the Pinochet dictatorship. In the privacy of their groups they stitched their grief and loss into the fabric. Here, the dark background material is from the trousers of a disappeared man and the road from the checked fabric shirt of another.

Reflecting on this practice, born from necessity, an arpillerista tells Roberta Bacic: “I remember us using the trousers, shirts, pullovers, pyjamas and even socks of our disappeared to sew and stitch our arpilleras” .

(Bacic in Agosín,”Stitching Resistance Women, Creativity and Fiber Crafts” (2014), p67).

Nos hacen falta / We miss them

Image: Nos hacen falta / We miss them. Mexican arpillera, Rosa Borrás, 2017. Photo Rosa Borrás. Rosa Borrás collection
Nos hacen falta / We miss them. Mexican arpillera, Rosa Borrás, 2017. Photo Rosa Borrás. Rosa Borrás collection

In September 2014, 43 students from Ayotzinapa teacher training college in Southern Mexico were abducted by police, en route to a protest; exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Their disappearance and government response led to vast numbers of people demonstrating, demanding answers, resignations and an end to collusion between drug cartels and government officials.

Rosa’s textile harbours “a seed” for the future, “… branches full of leaves, [signifying] that this … event was the ground for social movements … about the … violence we are living ….”

Sala de torturas / Torture chamber

Image: Sala de torturas / Torture chamber. Chilean arpillera, Violeta Morales, 1996. Photo Colin Peck
Conflict Textiles collection. Donation from Marjorie Agosín
Sala de torturas / Torture chamber. Chilean arpillera, Violeta Morales, 1996. Photo Colin Peck Conflict Textiles collection. Donation from Marjorie Agosín

In this arpillera, Violeta’s faceless portrayal of victims symbolizes the dehumanizing impact of torture. According to Memoria Viva - Proyecto Internacional de Derechos Humanos, 38,254 people were recognised as victims of political imprisonment and torture from the Pinochet era, figures based on their own research and official documents from Chile’s Truth Commission and 3 other official Reports - Memoria Viva
 (March 2018)

As a member of the group Movement Against Torture Sebastián Acevedo (MCTSA), Violeta constantly denounced the state’s practice of torture and was relentless in ensuring that people at home and abroad were aware of its widespread use in Chile. She died in 2001, never having found her brother Newton Morales, who disappeared in 1974.

Makers

Ana Zlatkes

Anonymous

Deborah Stockdale

Guadalupe Ccallocunto

Irene MacWilliam

Irma Müller

Nicole Drouilly

Rosa Borras

Students from Escuela de Cerámica

Shari Eppel

Taller Fundación Solidaridad

Taller Vicaría de la Solidaridad

Violeta Morales