Threads of Hope


Threads of Hope: The Living Healing Quilt Project

In this article, I look at the Living Healing Quilt Project (LHQP), organized by Alice Williams of the Curve Lake First Nation (Curve Lake, Ontario) and sponsored by the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The project involved the creation of a series of quilts by residential school survivors and intergenerational survivors and is made up of individual quilt blocks reflecting on residential school experience. I consider the LHQP as an intervention into the collected stories making up the national fabric, wherein the knotted underside of an apparently seamless entity is revealed. To do this, the quilt is read through a series of locales, institutional spaces, ideas, and metaphors. In four sections—Fabric, Pattern, Piecing, and Binding—the quilt is analyzed respectively as a document of trauma, an intervention into mainstream normative narratives of nation building, as part of a feminist rethinking of quilts as emancipatory texts, and as a commentary on the role of sewing and handcraft in the attempted creation of docile and assimilated Indigenous children.

Running through each of these sections is a consideration of how residential school life produced a fractured sense of home, reconfiguring the domestic residence as an institutional space characterized by the loss of culture and language, abuse (emotional, physical, and sexual), and the disciplining of unruly bodies to the social norms of mainstream….

Download the full paper here.

Image: The Living Healing Quilt Project.

About Kirsty Robertson

Kirsty Robertson is Associate Professor of contemporary art and Director of museum and curatorial studies at Western University, Canada.
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