Pablo Picasso’s Guernica (1937) is one of the most famous pieces of political art. Created in response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country town in Picasso’s native Spain, by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, the work combines the artist’s Cubist style with the traditions of political and religious banners. Guernica drew international attention to the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War, and raised funds for the war relief via a global touring exhibition.
Guernica Remaking, a research project led by Dr. Nicola Ashmore, seeks to explore how the radical energy of this political charged artwork is being harnessed by community groups across the globe. Ranging across America, Canada, France, Mauritius, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, the UK and India, the project highlights the ways that collective acts of sewing new versions of Guernica have provided marginalised people with a way of speaking out about issues affecting their community and building a sense of hope through making together. The project also offers new ways of thinking about – and working with – avant-garde art practices: the work of one of the twentieth century’s most famous artist-geniuses (with all of the patriarchal, abusive attitudes that go along with that concept) is transformed into a collective process, a way of community-building and empowering a range of voices.
Guernica Remakings, South Africa was led by The Keiskamma Art Project, an organisation set up in the Hamburg area to support and uplift the local community. The group have a history of working with embroidery and textiles, having previous created the Keiskamma alterpiece, a tribute to the victims and families affected by the AIDS crisis, and the Keiskamma Tapestry, created in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry to tell the history of the Eastern Cape Frontier. The Keiskamma Guernica explores the community’s endless grief and sorrow caused by extreme poverty, HIV and AIDS, inadequate schooling, and poor healthcare; it represent an act of courage and strength on the part of people ignored by the wealthy, left to suffer as a result of years of systemic racism and economic inequality.
The full documentary series on Guernica Remakings, South Africa – featuring interviews with the makers – is available here.
The Guernica Remakings book, published to coincide with the 2019 exhibition, is available here.
For more on Guernica Remakings, please visit the project website.