18th May, 2022

Work by political prisoners in Chile to go on show at University of Warwick

Ian Hughes 25th Oct, 2017

CRAFTS created by political prisoners in Chile are going on display at the University of Warwick.

During the military dictatorship of General Pinochet between 1973 and 1990 hundreds of political prisoners were held in concentration camps throughout the South American country.

In many of the camps, prisoners organised themselves and crafted items from the very limited materials and improvised tools available to them.

And some of the items created, ranging from carvings to clothing, can be seen in Crafting Resistance: the art of the Chilean Political Prisoners, running from Monday (October 30) to November 17.

Sergio Requena-Rueda arrived to the UK in 1977 as a political refugee. Having made a stand against Pinochet’s regime he spent 44 days in torture centres, and almost a year in a concentration camp.

The father-of-two was one of the lucky ones who survived, and has called Coventry home since 1980.

He told The Observer: “In the concentration camps, we organised ourselves in different activities and making crafted items was one of them, with very limited tools and materials but with great ingenuity.

“Sending the craft outside of the concentration camp to the country and abroad, was a kind of escape from the barbed wire to letting families, friends and the solidarity world know that we were continuing the resistance struggle from the prison, we were not victims, we were combatants.

“Years later when I was allowed to return to Chile, I was told that the student parish church of my Catholic university where I graduated as civil engineer had a permanent exhibition of the craft works that I had done in the 3Alamos Concentration Camp, Santiago.”

Sergio, who worked at GEC Telecommunications in Coventry and was an active trade unionist, testified in Madrid for Pinochet to be extradited from London to Spain to be judged for his crimes.

The now 71-year-old also testified in courts in Chile as a witness in cases of disappeared political prisoners who were with him.

In 2001, when Pinochet was detained in London, he presented a law suit in his homeland against the now dead dictator, and agents of the DINA (the Chilean secret police) responsible for his arrest, detention and torture. Last year some of those responsible were sentenced to five years in prison, and this summer the Supreme Court increased the sentences to ten years.

Sergio has also participated in the writing of two books about Pinochet’s regime.

The free exhibition can be seen in the Modern Records Centre of the university library from Monday to Friday.

Alan Angell from Oxford University, and Roberta Bacic from Conflict Textiles, will be speaking at the launch from 4.30pm on Monday.

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