Spokane artist uses Guatemalan scarves to share women’s stories
Debbie DuPey, 47, divides her time between Spokane and Guatemala – two very different worlds. DuPey, a writer, artist and longtime Spokane specialist in domestic violence prevention, is trying to bridge these worlds by telling the stories of the women of Guatemala and by selling their scarves. DuPey has published a 2011 calendar, titled “Threads,” featuring the stories of the women of Guatemala who weave scarves in the cooperative economic venture “Corazon Scarves.” Corazon is the Spanish word for heart. The women’s scarves are marketed through DuPey’s website and also through small gatherings of Inland Northwest women.
Q. What is the symbolism of scarves?
A. I can’t think of a culture in the world where women don’t use scarves. When you put a scarf on you feel beautiful. You feel protected from the elements. Think of how scarves are put together. How the threads are woven and how the interconnectedness makes them strong. They are beautiful and they are strong. In that way, they are very much like the women.
The scarves are all handmade on backstrap looms. The Guatemalan girls start learning this craft when they are 8 years old. A typical scarf, depending on the ability of the weaver, takes eight to 10 hours. The (women) set the price, and we double-check it to assure it’s a fair-trade price.
Q. What do you tell women here about the lives of the women in Guatemala?
A. They are incredibly courageous women. They are survivors of war. Many of them are experiencing domestic violence in their home. They have (experienced) ethnic oppression. As indigenous women, only 20 percent of them know how to read and write.
Providing women with economic sustainability allows them to come up with their own solutions to some of these very big challenges. Women have been able to finish houses. Their kids are all in school. We’ve started a learning center. So much has happened.
Q. Why are the gatherings here so important?
A. It’s a vehicle to educate women about the lives of women globally. A woman (here) puts on the scarf. She goes out and someone says, “What a beautiful scarf.” And she can say, “Let me tell you about this scarf. This was made by a woman in Guatemala and this is what I learned about her. And you can buy a scarf, too, and be part of this.”
Q. Where would you like this to lead?
A. I’d like to expand and provide a marketplace for women in Africa, in Asia and other Latin American countries who also need a viable market for their products and by doing so shed more light on the issues women face.
Q. Why should people in the Inland Northwest care about women in Guatemala?
A. We’re connected economically through commerce and politics. They are our neighbors. They are two hours from Houston. Our history in the past 50 years is very much entwined. When we are compassionate to people in other countries, it comes back to us in so many different ways.
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