(article) Gallery Exhibit: Quilting the World's Conscience

Exhibit Temporarily Closed April 22-26

Visioning Human Rights in the New Millennium: Quilting the World's Conscience

"According to the United  Nations., every human–just by virtue of being human–is entitled to freedom, a fair government, a decent standard of living, work, play, and education, freedom to come and go as we please and to associate with anyone we please, and the right to express ourselves freely."

 Visioning Human Rights in the New Millennium is a call for action in the global struggle for human rights.  Through artistic expression, utilizing the canvas of quilts, the artists in Visioning Human Rights in the New Millennium: Quilting the World's Conscience interpret the thirty  articles of the Declaration of Human Rights. 

The first recorded initiation of human rights occurred in 539 BC, when Cyrus the Great of Persia, freed all slaves after he conquered the city of Babylon.  Cyrus also declared people has the freedom to  choose their own religion.  A clay tablet, known as the Cyrus Cylinder, listed each of his statements on human rights, and is the first Declaration of Human Rights known to mankind.        

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights had its genesis on February 16, 1946, when the United Nations established a Human Rights Commission.  Its establishment was precipitated by the horrific human rights violations suffered by victims of World War II.  Eleanor Roosevelt was a member of the Commission and would go on to be elected its chairperson. Roosevelt brought to the table her compassion and commitment to human dignity, her empathy for the plight of the refugees of World War II, and her experience in politics and lobbying.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s undertaking was a difficult one. Getting the nations of the world to unilaterally agree on one document for human rights was not an easy task.  Finally, after two years of negotiations, the General Assembly of the United Nation adopted a resolution endorsing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. The document represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are innately entitled.  Eleanor Roosevelt considered her role in crafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be the most important accomplishment in her life.

Defined in the Declaration of Human Rights are four core freedoms vital to the progress of all human beings:  freedom of speech, freedom of belief, freedom from want and freedom from fear. All people are entitled to these rights, regardless of “distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."  All human rights impact one another, and the violation of one right inhibits the actualization of others.  The document is used by Amnesty International as their founding document, and is the most translated document in the history of the world.

In liberation struggles throughout the history of the world, arts activism has been central to the fight for human rights.  The artists position themselves in the abiding tradition of using of the arts to raise consciousness, voice social inequities, and build community.  Artistic expression allows us to find, examine and share what is within ourselves, how we view the world, and what changes are worth fighting for.  The exhibited quilts are integral parts of our fight for human rights.

In this book, Visioning Human Rights in the New Millennium, fiber  artists render works that connect the viewer in an immediate visual dialogue with issues that might not otherwise be accessible, transcending language barriers, and negotiating difficult topics with diverse audiences.   The international artists in Visioning Human Rights in the New Millennium engage viewers in human rights discourse in a powerful way.

The arts allow us to articulate and challenge oppressions and expand our imaginations. We quilt our joy, struggles, our concerns and our vision for a brighter future. Furthermore, the freedom to participate in arts and cultural work is itself a human right. The right to experience, develop, and articulate our cultures is a necessary component of realizing the full range of human rights to which we are all entitled by virtue of being human. All people have the right to develop, participate in, and enjoy cultural lives.

Our worlds have become increasingly more interconnected, with new technologies changing the way we communicate.  It is time we abandon the idea of "them" and "us" and begin to see humankind as one.

The objective of the book is to educate and inspire people to understand the meaning of human rights in its best practice, as well as human rights violations around the world, and the terrible consequences resulting from intolerance and bigotry. The art works will encourage reflection, and create dialogue around some of the most challenging human rights issues of our times. It is our goal to broaden the human mind by using art to communicate, engage, teach and heal.

-Carolyn L. Mazloomi 

Click Here to learn about each indiviudal quit and its unique intepretation on a speficic Article from the United Nation's Declaration of Human Rights.    

About Curator Carolyn L. Mazloomi:

Historian, Curator, Author, Lecturer, Artist, Mentor, Founder, and Facilitator — the remarkable and tireless Dr.  Carolyn Mazloomi has left her mark on many lives. Trained as an aerospace   engineer, Carolyn Mazloomi turned her sites and tireless efforts in the 1980s to bring the many unrecognized contributions of African American quilt artists to the attention of the American people as well as the international art communities.

From the founding  of the African-American Quilt Guild of  Los Angles in 1981 to the  1985 founding of the Women of Color Quilters Network  (WCQN),  Mazloomi has been at the forefront of educating the public about the diversity of interpretation, styles and techniques among African  American  quilters as well as educating a younger generation of  African Americans about  their own history through the quilts the  WCQN members create.

This exhibit are made possible in part by the board and members of Texas Folklife, and by grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts with an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art, and the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department. Exhibit courtesy of Carolyn Mazloomi and Women of Color Quilters Network & Friends. Installation by Rebecca Bingman.

Join us for the Gallery Opening Thursday, Febuary 21 

The two-part exhibit, installed by Texas Folklife gallery exhibit coordinator Rebecca Bingman, will be open at the Texas Folklife Gallery in Central Austin from Feb 21 to May 24th.  A total of fifteen quilts will be on display Feb 21 - April 8; the exhibit will then rotate to showcase the additionall fifteen quilts.