Behind the Scenes at the Museum

Setting up the exhibition ‘Mujeres: Conquista y Descolonización’ (Women: Conquest and Decolonization) at the Museo de la Mujer (Women’s Museum) in Buenos Aires on Tuesday 14 August.

Valeria Salum hails from Tigre, a river town in the province of Buenos Aires. After training and working as a silversmith and jeweller she now prefers to use materials which do not come at an environmental and social cost. As well as working as an artist and designer, Valeria teaches adult secondary education and works part time as a surgical technician. She has also made wedding dresses for a living. She loves mountain running and when she crossed the Andes for the second time she phoned her sister to say she had been over more times than José de San Martín.

This piece began life as part of a project in the schools where Valeria works with adults studying to get their bachillerato (school leaving certificate). The idea was to commemorate the participation of women in Argentine independence. The blue and white escarapela (rosette) is an important element of independence symbolism in Argentina. According to Valeria, the colours originated from the Spanish crown but the independence fighters took to wearing them on the battlefield. The escaparelas and the Argentinian flag, also blue and white, were introduced by Manuel Belgrano in February 1812.

The mannequin is thought to date from the 1940s and when Valeria found it it was covered in old dressmaking patterns. The escarapelas are made from felt and the central one takes the form of a uterus. Some of the decorations are made from commemorative stamps of independence figures (such as Macacha Guemes and Juana Azurduy) mounted on reclaimed wood from demolished houses in Tigre. The bobbles are typical decorations from Salta, the northern province which was home to Macacha Guemes, and other decorations are made out of sheet music of the national anthem of Argentina and spools of thread displaying the ‘Industria Argentina’ (Made in Argentina) stamp.

The exhibition will run from 16 August until 22 September at the Museo de la Mujer, Pasaje Dr. R. Rivarola, 147, Buenos Aires.