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Piecing the Peaces with Fabric Art

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n 1996 I spent a month at St. George's College in Jerusalem. I was interested in what archaeological research added to understanding the Bible. But it wasn't information under the ground, but what was happening on the ground, which had a profound effect on me.

Just before I arrived the Israeli government had assassinated a Palestinian leader and Palestinian suicide bombers had killed not only themselves but several Israelis. The Israeli government responded by not allowing over 100,000 Palestinian commuters to work in Jerusalem for over two months. This was the first I had heard about the collective punishment of many for the radical acts of a few. After 911 I was glued to the TV where polls in the Middle East showed that the main reason for antipathy toward the US was our uneven support of Israel over the Palestinians.

I could no longer avoid dealing with this issue. This led me to attend the Peace Cafe, where I heard speakers and read books with Palestinian and Jewish Americans. I also became trained in Dr. King's nonviolent methods of dealing with conflict. I learned that peacebuilding is about finding commonalities between people rather than emphasizing what divides.

I found organizations I related to, like Jewish Voice for Peace, which didn't have exclusive messages like "We support Israel" or "We support the Palestinians," but inclusive messages like "We Stand with Humanity."

I saw films and heard musicians, which enlarged my understanding about the Middle East. and decided I would see what I could contribute as a fabric artist.

This sketching on fabric style I use in my embroideries was inspired by Kantha, which is made in Eastern India using primarily straight stitches. Instead of large colorful Kantha quilts, I make small embroideries stitched with black thread on muslin. For this emotionally charged subject, I didn't want to overwhelm, but to draw people in.

As I was finishing these embroideries I thought about how a few pieces of fabric sewn together look inconsequential, but when many pieces are added something significant like a quilt is created. In these embroideries I have pictured acts like demonstrating and building playgrounds. None of these actions make much impact, but when many people join in, something significant like peace and justice for Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans becomes a possibility.

Lee Porter, USA
May 2009

This story first appeared at Voices from the Frontlines on www.peacexpeace.org


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Additional resources

Peace X Peace
To read more about Peace X Peace, or connect with women around the world, visit their website

Lee Porter
Visit Lee's site for more of her art.


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