The Coloquio Pertenencias (Belongings Colloquium), besides providing a space to debate the cultural importance of artisan work, created a moment of international exchange, with the presentation of the Travelling Sewing Box Project. This laboratory for cultural integration based in New Zealand, which is currently operating thanks to ALAC (Aotearoa Latin American Community Inc.), consists of a workshop on textile techniques for immigrant women from the Latin community. The workshop is based on the personal experience of Professor Victoria Martinez Azaro, who teachesSustainable Design at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design and, originally from Argentina, has been a resident of New Zealand for more than 20 years.
"Telling your own story is a way to rebuild your roots and lay the foundations for a new beginning in a newcountry. The workshop is based on a process of personal creation, developed over the years, with the medium that is familiar to me, textiles.
"Now that my life in New Zealand is settled, I feel that I can share my experience with other women who are going through the process of creating roots in a new country, keeping aware that my experience has been very different from those of the women participating in the workshops, since most are refugees and had to leave their countries of origin, forced out by violent situations. At the beginning of my collaboration with ALAC, I had special training with a psychologist to understand how to encourage expression without forcing someone to go to places of pain and share what they are not willing to share.
In addition to contributing knowledge about the problem, the collaboration with ALAC represents an anchorage with the Maori community, one of the few indigenous peoples that know how to vindicate their past and prosper in the present. Many of these immigrant women renounced their indigenous origins throughout their lives; the relationship with the Maori people is a tool for cultural vindication. Part of the program consists of workshops on dyeing techniques given by representatives of Maori culture, respected professionals who show a new vision of their place in the world to the Latina participants. Experimenting with and discovering local materials and dyes is also a way to take root in the new environment and make it familiar by recognizing its resources.
Victoria along with representatives of ALAC—and Fanny Zabala, a member of the workshops who is now a leadership figure in her community—were in Buenos Aires to present the project, desiring to inspire the rethinking of cultural identities and build bridges between migrant women and local artisans.