Spoiler alert: The story of Philomena is brutal - but you may remember that from your Greek mythology. After being monstrously raped by her sister's husband, Philomena refuses to shut up and go quietly about family life as though nothing has happened. Brother-in-law cuts out her tongue to silence her. So she can never speak the truth.
Gruesome. Haunting. Staggeringly current.
However, silencing does not work. Truth will out. Voiceless Philomena sits down at her loom and weaves her story into an subversive cloth, makes of it a coat, and sends it to her sister. Who gets it. Sister comes to the rescue and off, together, they flee for their lives, their freedom.
The world forgets that women, because we have been silenced over and again, have learned how to tell our story in other ways . . . weaving an honest piece of cloth is one of them. Standing in front of senate judiciary committee is another. Going before a judge, a television camera, or taking a brush to paint a canvas. We speak.
In the Peruvian Andes, 10 long hours from Lima, a group of women are going to their looms to tell their own story. It is not a tale of poverty, of abuse and marginalization, though all of that is theirs to tell. Rather, they are attempting to tell a story of self-sufficiency, and self-respect - and their own stubborn will to reach it. They are offering the world their own distinct cultural wealth born of their history and hands and imaginations. Their cloth speaks of dignity, and authenticity, and slow fashion, and hope.
They call themselves, Philomena.
Former fashion model, Micaela Llosa, founded and named the project for what this heroine's name means. Philomene, derived from two words married into one: Love + Strength.
When I wrap one of these artful ponchos around me bearing the signature of the woman who wove it, the woman who was rightly paid and creatively inspired, I hear her voice rising up. I feel like I am Philomena's sister, reading in the robe she has sent, this determination to be heard, to be counted, to be alive. I hear the love + strength in it. And I get it.
Which is exactly what we need more of. Sisters listening to sisters. Men listening to women. The industrialists of the northern hemisphere listening to the creatives of the southern hemisphere. One story at a time. Thread by thread. Love + strength. And from it, a more truthful world.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker