Women's Ways of Peace

Arts and Crafts


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Ways women have transformed their experiences during wartime into art which ended up promoting peace.


1) Kathe Kollewitz: Anti-War Prints - Germany

Pacifist and Socialist Kathe Kollwitz portrayed the universal woman, “everywoman” in the struggles of war. She was a well know German artist who took on the cause of justice for the poor, the laborers, and sufferers of war. Her stark black and white prints and posters often portrayed the grief of parents who lost their children to the violence and famine of war. She lost her own son in World War I and her grandson in World War II. Becoming famous, her work was mostly prominent in the early 1920s, when, between the wars, it served to promote the horrors of war and the cause of peace. “I have received a commission to make a poster against war. That is a task that makes me happy. Some may say a thousand times that this is not pure art...but as long as I can work, I want to be effective with my art.”

“While I drew and wept along with the terrified children I was drawing, I really felt the burden I am bearing. I felt that I have no right to withdraw from the responsibility of being an advocate....Is it any relief when in spite of my poster people in Vienna die of hunger every day? And when I know that? Did I feel relieved when I made the prints on war and knew that the war would go on raging? Certainly not.”

 


"Seed for Sowing Shall not be Milled"


"Killed in Action"


2) Arpilleras: Chilean Women’s Tapestry Art

The working class women of Chile used arpilleras (cloth pictures using patch work appliques on burlap tapestry) to communicate the plight of the Chilean people during the military dictator Pinochet’s regime, 1973-89. Many of the women who made the arpilleras were wives of political prisoners, widows of men who “disappeared” from villages, women who had to sell arpilleras to earn money for the survival of their families. The images within the arpilleras contained symbolism that depicted the relationship between events occuring daily in Chile as compared to the previous way of life within the country. At times under the government of Pinochet, poor women did not have much material to use. But they gathered twine, pieces of cloth, whatever they could, to make their tapestry art.

In those years few people spoke out, fearful of losing their lives. The tapestries, created as a natural way to earn money while depicting the realities of womens’ daily lives, became known as "newspaper on cloth." The women and their work became examples of female empowerment in the midst of violence.


3) Sadako: Paper Peace Cranes - Japan

The paper crane has become an image representing the desires of people for peace as the result of the art and death of Sadako Sasaki in 1955 when she was twelve years old. She was two when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. In 1955, when she was eleven years old, she was diagnosed with Leukemia, a result of the radiation she received from the fallout of the bomb. As her mother, Fujiko Sasaki explained,

“I once thought, ‘If she has to suffer like this, she should have died that morning on August 6th (which was the day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima), but I wish she were alive and could be with me no matter how handicapped she was and how heavy her sickness was....

She believed in a saying that if you fold a thousand cranes, you'd get over your sickness. She folded paper cranes carefully, one by one using a piece of paper of advertisement, medicine and wrapping. Her eyes were shining while she was folding the cranes, showing she wanted to survive by all means....I gave the folded cranes that she made sincerely to her classmates and put the rest of them in her coffin as well as flowers so that she could bring them to the next world...Her classmates, the members of Association of Kokeshi, come every 25th, and are kind to us...I really respect children for their strong love and wish for peace because they made a plan to create a statue of an Atomic Bomb Child with Sadako's death as a start....The statue of An Atomic Child will be built as the symbol of peace on the lawn near Atomic Bomb Memorial Tower in Nakajima where Sada-chan went with her father!...I'd like to appeal to mothers not only in Japan but all over the world that I don't want such a horrible thing to happen again. So many children are looking for peace.”

Sadako had completed over a thousand cranes before her death at the age of twelve. With her death, attention to the number of other Hiroshimo survivors deaths began to get attention, and Sadako as well as the paper cranes became symbols for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of world peace. Sadako peace statues have been built in a number of cities. There are numerous Sadako Peace clubs, and Sadako’s paper crane project is recreated by people, mainly children, throughout the world. Many send their cranes to the Hiroshima Peace Park where there is a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane. On the bottom is described, “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world.”


Activities

1) Kathe Kollwitz art:

  • Discuss the effectiveness and raw emotion revealed in these prints.

  • What might Kollwitz be “saying” in the print “Seed for Sowing Must not be Milled”?

  • What images might one use to dramatically bring the horrors of todays conflicts home?

  • Create an anti-war drawing using Kollwitz’s “style.”

2) Peru Arpilleras:

  • Find other ways women have used everyday craft skills and creativity to visualy express anti war sentiments. (hints: the afghan “war rugs,” or tee shirts with messages of peace).

3) Peace Cranes:

  • For information on using the story “Sadako and the Thousand Cranes” find seventh grade ideas on:
    Teacher Cyber Guide: