Who would have thought that a mother’s lullaby might contain heartbreaking stories of famine, trauma… and also hope. When illustrated in the form of blankets, such tender lullabies create a moving display of human resiliance.
Then again, it’s not surprising that mums around the world are soothing their children with words that mean something to them. (If I were to write a sleepy-time song for my children, it would surely contain a few hints about what it important to me, such as not waking up before 7am).
It’s just that my concerns seem so petty when compared to some of the lyrics displayed as part of the Lullaby Blanket project, undertaken here in Hobart.
Led by community artist, Jackie McDonald, asylum seeker women used a variety of new and traditional textile skills to create these beautiful blankets. They were on display at the Moonah Taste of the World Festival recently; there’s an audio documentary about the project here.
Examples of the lyrics, translated into English, include:
Baby Boy, Baby Boy
Hello Baby, Please Be Quiet
When Your Hunger is Very Painful
Just Lie Down and Sleep
Better Just Lie Down and Sleep
(From South Sudan, see image below. Blanket made by Mary Poni and Celina Khamis)
In light of this week’s anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, it is particularly heartbreaking to consider these words to a child:
Who Makes My Child Cry
You Like to Be Treated Well
You Will Be Treated Well
I will Always Treat You Well
(From Rwanda, see image below, blanket made by Epiphanie Uwamariya and Sylvia Muhayimana)
And in Iraq, mothers are crooning to their babies that “you are safe to sleep.” (See below, blanket created by Amal Abovelkashi).
The handiwork on the blankets is lovely, and the objects themselves are worthy of heirloom status. But it’s the sentiments contained within that are so powerful and affecting. They highlight the obvious truth that mothers around the globe, including those fleeing violence or hardship, all want the same things for their babies.
(At top: Nepalese blanket from Bhutan by Indira Sharma. Second from top: Sinhalese blanket from Sri Lanka by Mirmelee Manamperumudalige)