The Common Good
March 2006

Uncommon Threads

by Lee Porter | March 2006

Lee Porter's quilts capture the beauty of rural Nicaragua.

The quilts in the series Nicaragua: Home and School originated with a trip to Nicaragua I took in 2002 at the invitation of the Global Education Fund. Half the rural population of Nicaragua is illiterate and only 1 percent of entering students pass the math exam at the largest public university in Managua. The Fund tries to address this by training teachers—who then train their colleagues—in thinking skills, practical applications of academic knowledge, and experiential learning.

I try to portray some of the ordinary home and school conditions I saw in what is the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere. Adults and children often have school in the barely lit interiors of their homes or in cast-off buildings. One rural school I saw during my trip to Nicaragua was in an abandoned German coffee factory, absent electric lights or glass in the windows.

The people construct houses of recycled materials such as corrugated metal, old signs, and pieces of wood, often with dirt floors and without running water. From these scraps of discarded materials they have made orderly environments—tables and chairs for sitting, hammocks for rest, and areas to prepare meals in the open air.

Lee Porter is a quilter and quilting workshop teacher who bases much of her art on biblical stories and social justice issues. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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