Five Women, Three Weeks, A Thousand Stitches

The story of five incarcerated women and their collaborative cross stitch

The Creation of Spots Vs Stripes: The Story Of A Mother's Love (2019/2019) by Brian KaneneOriginal Source: Carakana

Creating a masterpiece while finding peace

The cross stitch shown in this story is the result of work by women from Langata Women’s Prison in Kenya. These women are part of Carakana's initiative to empower vulnerable people by teaching them traditional craft. 

Spots Vs Stripes: The Story Of A Mother's Love (2019/2019) by Anne, Mwende, Rebecca, Christine and NthenyaOriginal Source: Carakana

Some background to the image

The Maasai Mara is a world renowned for its rich wildlife and scenic landscape. One afternoon, a group of Zebras came to drink water from a river. Without warning there was a loud distress call and a cloud of dust rose from the herd. A leopard had taken a young foal by the throat as it crossed the river. The mother Zebra raced to the rescue of her young and warded off the predator. 

From photograph to cross stitch

The photograph was translated into a remarkable cross-stitched tapestry. This story draws on quotes from the women involved in the making of the work, who outline their experience of cross stitch and relationship with Carakana. 

Anne's story

 “I have been cross stitching for the last three years and by far, this piece is my favorite. The action depicted in the pattern- a zebra trying to save its young one from the jaws of a leopard- touched the mother in me. It is what any mother would do for her child.'' Anne likens this to the Carakana project which has symbolically snatched her out of the jaws of hopelessness and despair.

Mwende's story

 “This was my first pattern to work on and it was a privilege to be part of the team selected for this special assignment. I loved how it kept me busy and stress free, prevented me from having days of overthinking about my situation and how I got to quickly make friends with people I consider sisters here in prison. I have no family out there and no one visits me but cross stitching helped me build a family .''

Rebecca's story

 “I will forever be grateful to Carakana  because I was down in the pit but this project has lifted me up. I have several grandchildren and because of the money I have earned through this project, they are in school and are being well taken care of. I am all they have left after my daughter passed away. I am able to cater for their needs from behind bars and that is a huge miracle for me. I am thankful to God for this project.'' 

Rebecca's story

“Working with a team has been good for my emotional well-being. We share and advise each other and this encouraged me to work hard at having good, beneficial friendships while in here. In the three weeks it took us to complete this piece, my stress levels were lower and I was committed to completing the task.”

Nthenya's story

 “I am the first born at home among four siblings and I gave birth to my only child while in high school. They all look up to me as the breadwinner at home and it is my earnings from cross stitching that I am able to take care of them.”

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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