Michigan Quilt Project
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Quilts and Human Rights

Menschen and the Opening Wall of the Exhibit
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

January 15-August 24, 2008

Quiltmaking as a Means of Coping with Oppression and Its Memories
Left to right: After the Party, Prison Quilt and Incest
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

Photos show the exhibit during its installation in the Main Gallery of the Michigan State University Museum. The exhibition and related programming was supported by the Michigan Traditional Arts Partnership grant from Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and a Creating Inclusive Excellence Funding award from the MSU Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives. Supplemental funds were provided by the Michigan Quilt Project Endowment, the Great Lakes Traditions Endowment, the Department of Art and Art History, Department of Anthropology, Public Humanities Collaborative, and the Center for Gender in Global Context at MSU. In-kind support was contributed by the Michigan State University Museum.

Quilts Honor Champions For Human Rights
Left to right; Nelson Mandela's Presence, Mr. Mandela,
Tribute to Nelson Mandela, View from the Mountain Top,
South African Black Women Anti-Apartheid Leaders.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

Why this exhibition at the Michigan State University Museum?

This exhibition grew out of several long-standing research and educational activities at the Michigan State University Museum that have been focused on the documentation and analysis of traditional culture. The museum is particularly interested in documenting and sharing the stories and work of artists who, because of race, ethnicity, gender, economics, or politics, have not been widely studied or presented. Many museum projects focus on quiltmaking and on the ways in which traditional arts are used to convey information on social causes.

For more information about the museum’s activities related to these topics, go to www.museum.msu.edu.

Quilts Express Collective Transgressions Against Human Rights
Left to right: Southern Heritage, Southern Shame, Strange Fruit, and Peeling Layers Back to Basics.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

About the Quilts and Human Rights exhibition…

This exhibition examines the ways in which textiles—especially quilts—have been made and used to demonstrate solidarity with movements dedicated to advancing international human rights, to mark important events related to human rights violations, to pay tribute to those individuals who have played roles in human rights activism, to provide vehicles for the expression of feelings and memories about human rights violations, and to engage individuals in actions that will solve human rights issues.

About Quilts and Human Rights…

Textiles have long been used, mainly by women, as a medium to express feelings, values, and experiences that reflect upon and motivate action related to issues and needs in contemporary society. Textile artists who use their skills to express issues related to human rights do so in many forms and for many purposes. In some cases, textiles have been produced by individual makers who, working alone, simply wish to make a statement; others have been produced by women working in organized efforts to subversively or overtly protest against human rights abuses or to record the histories and memories of individuals whose stories traditionally are overlooked and under-recorded.

The Look of Human Rights Quilts
There is no one visual or technical style of quilts related to human rights. Often, though, they are filled with symbolic and literal depictions of experiences, beliefs, and statements and are intended as visual messages rather than bed covers. Some quilts, however, give very little, if any, visual clues that they are connected to human rights; it is in their stories of why they were made and how they were used that we learn of their deep connections to human rights.

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