Just recently we met with the a group of embroiders from the Cultural Center of Moravia (CCM). Director, Carlos Uribe succinctly explains the history of the neighborhood:
Moravia is a young neighborhood in Medellín that has been in existence for 42 years. It sprung up in 1968 as an unplanned development and is, let’s say, a unique phenomenon. Moravia grew around a rubble deposit that later became a garbage depository and subsequently the city’s official garbage dump, due to errors within the government administration during the seventies.
Between 1973 and 1983, the government authorized the dumping of any and all waste: residential, human, hospital and industrial. This created an infectious mish-mash, a mixture of different types of waste, including radioactive waste. Paradoxically, due to the social problems stemming from Colombia’s armed conflict, unplanned development processes led to Medellín becoming the focus of many displaced subsistence farmers, indigenous people, those of African descent and people from other parts of the country looking for a better life. They all concentrated around that garbage dump, living off recycled materials.
In that epicenter of death rose an epicenter of life. Moravia is a community of 48,000 inhabitants living in a very small area, a neighborhood that has the highest population density in Colombia: a unique phenomenon. Apart from overcrowding, public services used as contraband, lack of schooling and intra-family violence, Moravia also has positive features, such as being a melting pot of cultures. The people who come from the north and south of the country, the Pacific or the Llanos give it a very wide-ranging cultural richness. Part of our responsibility is to make those memories, that identity, that culture, come to light."
What Carlos Uribe describes is a social and economic context for which we base our project. Uribe's Cultural Center provides a structure for the artisans of Moravia that counter-balances their landscape poverty, drugs and exclusion from responsible social services. CCM marks a literal and symbolic space where people of the community can work as a collective to change the social issues that plaque their area. For those who come to the center there is more to find than lessons in cultural practices.CCM provides a foundation that creates a local economic structure, an education system, and an understanding of the collective process for social change.
We have initiated a project with a group of embroiders at the Cultural Center of Moravia. All total, thanks to a generous donation by Carlos Uribe, we have commissioned 12 members of the group to embroider 12 graphic images on bed sheets to be displayed within the Collective White House. Our interest in collaborating with the embroidery group comes from our interest in the process of embroidery as a contemporary art process, and a commitment to the local economic process as generated by CCM.