Lavanderia: A Mixed Load of Women, Wash and Word

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Donna J. Watson, Michelle Sierra, Lucia Gbaya Kanga
San Diego City Works Press, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 334 pages
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LAVANDERIA was conceived at the ZSPOT writer's workshop in San Diego, California by the Wash House Collective - a group of artists, educators, and activists residing in San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia. In critique mode, we discussed the revision process, joking about how it compares to doing dirty laundry. Our faces blazed in that moment of possibilities. We developed a showpiece using words and photos of wash scenes that illustrate the weekly task common to most.Everybody does the dirty deed. Although after researching history, we found that the practice falls mainly on the shoulders of women.Over time we collected stories - our own and those of our mamas, tias, daughters, abuelas, and great grand mamas - the women who mended, washed, ironed, and folded garments for their families and their employers' families for pennies a day. Like laundry, the stories are soiled, funky, faded and tattered, and even after pre-soak, bleaching and softening with the best products money can buy, some leftovers of the original stains remain.Clothes unmake the woman. Driven by fashion and advertising, we often imitate rather than create from the richness of our grind. Especially for those of us caught in stress cycles of corporate-mania or the high maintenance of poverty, (both sure to kill any inkling of creative energy) we spark, surviving through our labors. Safeguarding the integrity of our families and ourselves, we refine words and distill images that rejoice those headragged fore-mamas, who, in the womanist words of Alice Walker speaking of history's unspoken wisdom, “knew without knowing a page of it themselves.” Lavanderia is a small harvest of our labor. Our hope is that women around the world continue to imagine and maintain their creative vision while balancing the common tasks embedded in our daily survival.

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