Picasso’s response to the bombing of Guernica in 1937, the painting Guernica, has been an inspiration to anti-fascists across the years and across the world. As the English Defence League threaten to march in Liverpool this weekend, and Tommy Robinson founder and now ex-leader of the EDL says he is leaving due to “extremists in the organisation”, the remaking of Guernica project arrives in Salford.
A group of artists and activists in Brighton have used Picasso’s painting, Guernica, to create a unique collaborative project as part of their protest at the rise of fascism. They are re-making the painting in a banner, as Maude Casey, one of the artists, explains;
We are increasingly concerned about the frequency of the EDL marching in Brighton and other places, with their message of hate. Historically, in times of austerity, fascism has targeted people instead of identifying the underlying economic causes. I was intrigued by the idea of collaboratively remaking Picasso’s Guernica as a protest against fascism.
Casey, like many other people in the collective, has a history of taking part in anti-fascist activity. Other members have been active in making banners for Greenham Common, or in anti-Guantanamo campaign work.
All of us have taken part in political actions where the creation of a banner, or a placard, or items of clothing or badges have been part of that action, dramatically enacting or expressing it while also inviting engagement and dialogue.
Central to the project is the collaborative nature of the sewing process which takes place in public spaces, such as public libraries, galleries and community centres:
Our public libraries are precious: they give the opportunity for diverse groups of people to meet and gather, to find information and spend time together.
During these sessions, the banner participants sit down with anyone who is interested in taking part in the sewing and people are given the opportunity to talk about their own experiences of war:
It has been very moving as people have spoken about their life histories and shared their experiences which have ranged from the bombing of Brighton and evacuation from London during the Second World War, the experience of the Basque children’s evacuation by boat to England in 193, to people who have recently fled war and torture in their home countries.
Casey feels that this sharing process is central to the project. She believes that, at this time in this country, people need to come together to support each other:
Doing anything together is empowering, to feel less isolated particularly because of the battering that many people are experiencing at this time. It is very positive to make banners, to do something practical that puts people in touch with their own creativity and imagination.
Being able to sew is not a prerequisite of taking part in the banner making. There has been a diverse group of people turning up at their sessions, including many men who are keen to learn how to sew, as well as men who have shared their experiences of growing up in cultures where they sewed with their grandmothers. Casey sees the act of sewing as a powerful symbol of resistance:
It is powerful to do something apparently small and modest, such as making some stitches in a textile. The banner says we are resisting, we have always resisted and we will continue to resist.
The artists see the project in the spirit of Guernica, remembering the past horrors of war and its effects, particularly upon civilians:
We all see the collaborative process of making as a powerful antidote to the destructive powers of war and violent political systems.
Central to the project is the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; Casey feels that women bear a particular burden during wars:
Women have a different experience of war: we produce sons; we most frequently experience rape as a weapon of war; we are victims of trafficking – and we campaign for organisations to bring about an end to this.
Picasso said about his art:
No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war for attack and defence against the enemy.
The new Guernica banner also has a dual purpose:
It is a piece of art and will hang in galleries but it has been made big enough for 12 people to carry it on our protests in our continuing resistance of fascism.
Join Maude at the Working Class Movement Library on Saturday 12 October 2-5pm to take part in the sew-in.Further info see
Further details about the project see
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