A recently uncovered Chilean mural created in the 1970s by political refugees in Leeds University Union will undergo restoration work thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund. Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the project will restore the mural and re-establish its cultural significance as a piece of community and political art within both the Chilean and local communities.
The mural, which was hidden for 40 years behind a wall in the Union foyer, was rediscovered during a recent refurbishment. It was originally painted by Chilean students and activists who left their home country to escape persecution under General Pinochet’s regime.
They created the mural in the Students’ Union to draw attention to the dictatorship and acts as a symbol of workers solidarity, a crucial part of Chilean heritage. An example of LUU’s own rich heritage in supporting student political expression, it also reminds us of the importance and value in welcoming refugees into our communities.
The mural will form the centrepiece of a resource library dedicated to refugees and asylum seekers, bringing members of the student, local and Chilean communities together. The students working on the resource library are Emily Merriott, Hitomi Ishida, Sarah Rainey, Abigail King, Sufea Mohmad Noor and Peitong Li. A programme of educational workshops on muralism, a collection of oral histories by Chilean volunteers and a walking tour of mural sites in Leeds will enable everyone to discover the rich history behind this culturally important artwork.
Gilberto Hernandez who was one of the students who painted the mural, said:
“This mural is very meaningful to me, I helped to paint it together with other refugees when I was student in Leeds after being exiled from Chile. It has a strong meaning to me because it denounces the crimes committed by the Pinochet dictatorship and still acts as a symbol of solidarity and friendship for the people who have been persecuted by dictators and continues to show hope for refugees. I am excited about its restoration.”
On Thursday 7 December, a mobile library installation created by MA students from the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies will mark the beginning of the restoration. This installation gives voice to Chilean Refugees who live in Leeds on their experience of Pinochet’s regime and the socio-political unrest to bring a platform to the historical impact of this political unrest. All are welcome to attend.
Union Affairs Officer Jack Palmer said:
“We are thrilled to have received support with our project thanks to National Lottery players. We hope that the mural’s inspiring story will encourage new political artwork in Leeds and bring students, refugees, local residents and the Yorkshire Chilean community closer together.”
The launch event will take place between 4pm-5pm in Leeds University Union. The restoration will begin in January 2018 with an aim to finish by the end of February 2018.