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Research by geographers at Birkbeck with Chilean exiles who were political prisoners under the Pinochet regime has led to the production of a museum exhibition and documentary film, both focused on the craftwork produced in Chilean prison camps.



Of the approximately 200,000 Chileans exiled during the military regime, approximately 3,000 exiles came to the UK, of which up to half remain in Britain. The Chilean exile community are a hard to reach and relatively under-researched group but offer important insights into refugee experiences having lived as exiles for over four decades.



The researchers conducted 45 oral history interviews with Chilean exiles and key stakeholders focussing on their arrivals to the UK in the 1970s and subsequent coping strategies, adapting to life in the UK in the aftermath of exposure to severe abuse of human rights.

These discussions culminated in an exhibition of the craftwork. Over 100 pieces of craft were displayed, making the exhibition the largest collection of this type of craftwork outside of the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Chile.

A short film, Crafting Resistance: The Art of Chilean Political Prisoners, was also produced, telling the story of the survivors of Pinochet’s dictatorship.



For the Chilean exile community, the exhibition and film was a public display of all that had been achieved despite working in extreme conditions in prison camps, while also being a confirmation of their living testimonies of the torture and human rights abuses of many Chileans during the dictatorship.

Crafting Resistance was subsequently translated into Spanish and deposited as a permanent artefact in the archive of the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos in Chile.

Second-generation exiles have expressed that watching Crafting Resistance together enabled them to start new conversations within their families around the trauma that parents had endured.


More information

Institution: Birkbeck, University of London

Researchers: Dr Jasmine Gideon 


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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Crafting Resistance: the art of Chilean political prisoners.  Last accessed on: <date>


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