Delegates help craft giant AIDS ribbon

Published June 1, 2004

Emily Wall (top), Judy Steers and Jennifer Henry (with baby Isabella) make their marks on squares of denim that formed a 40-foot-long AIDS ribbon. The quilt formed a backdrop for an address by Stephen Lewis.

St. Catharines, Ont.

“Forgive us our silence,” someone wrote in one denim square. “May God direct the wills of those who can help,” said another. And another: “Bring healing of body and spirit.”

These were among the sentiments expressed by delegates of General Synod who took part in making the Ribbon of Hope, a project initiated by the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.

The squares were among 800 pieces which were later sewn together into a long quilt by Vancouver artist Thomas Roach, who had been asked by PWRDF to conceptualize the art project. The quilt, hung on poles to mimic the red looped AIDS awareness ribbons, was brought onstage when Stephen Lewis, the United Nations special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa, delivered a speech to General Synod.

It took dozens of pairs of blue jeans, which were donated by Mr. Roach’s fellow parishioners at Vancouver’s Christ Church Cathedral, to make the squares. He says he used blue jeans not only because it is “ubiquitous” in North America but also because it uses indigo (or a synthetic of it), a dye which he said is “found in a variety of cultures and used around issues of healing and spirituality.”

Mr. Roach also silk-screened a variety of patterns on the denim squares. “The patterns are a variation of cantha or the lines of running stitches, which is found in India,” he says. “There are eight or nine patterns from different places to convey that AIDS affects other parts of the globe besides Africa. I chose to use patterns of my own making that are similar as tributes.”

A textile artist who makes church vestments and creates sacred space using light and cloth, Mr. Roach says the project was his first time working with denim and doing something related to AIDS. “I enjoy community projects and finding ways for people to use their hands and be creative,” he said of his decision to involve delegates in the project. “I want them to understand that at the end of the day what we produce is creative.”

He hopes that the ribbon “will have a life beyond General Synod” and will aid PWRDF in educating people about HIV/AIDS. He intentionally left some squares out of the quilt to symbolize that “there’s a continuing, evolving story and dialogue that needs to go on.”


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