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Needles hold the stories of past and future abortions 

By Romina Chuls

Wayward weavers,[1]  promiscuous llamas, and queer butterflies come to life at the rhythm of ghostly music in Cecilia Vicuña’s stop motion animation in 16mm. The jaguar shaman calls you to contort your body in an invented desert, a landscape reminiscent of a painting by Peruvian poet Jorge Eduardo Eielson. Vicuña imagined the days of a Nasca mantle’s characters spirits in a series of dreamlike images similar to children’s movies of the 80s [2].  Maybe, that surreality was only digestible when we were kids, able to[2] communicate with our imaginary friends. 

Painted beans appear as a form of writing, archives that will become plants, food. Are those beans producing the shaking sound we heard when the spirits entered the weaving temple? Knitted creatures stroll inside a space dedicated to fibers’ entanglement in a sacred interaction which creates an expansion of the body and its sensorial capacities, like a spider. The temple is built from the same materials as their bodies, like ruinas made from adobe and us, porque tu cuerpo es de tierra y mi cuerpo es de tierra [3].  

The 1983 film creates a narrative that enriches how we look at our past, inventando el mundo. It envisions the figures that have been read as distant mythological creatures by colonial archeologists and historians performing daily activities [4].  They are closer to being our ancestors’ neighbor spirits than unreachable religious characters. Remember, this has nothing to do with Catholicism. 

The archive that appears in Vicuña’s film is a 100 - 300 C.E. funerary mantle from what is today’s coastal Peru, titled The Paracas Textile [5].  It shows a harvesting ceremony. Ninety figures stitched into its border, holding different fruits, vegetables, and plants, illustrate Nasca’s agriculture. The figures honoring the harvesting dance entangled, performing a procession with no distinguishable beginning or end.

The limits of each figure are not easy to recognize. Their bodies are morphed into other different beings, making it difficult to differentiate the human features from the animals and plants. Arms become leaves, feet have tails, the llama in Vicuña’s film moves while merging into a frog. We are looking at a multispecies crowd, where there is no separation between the procession’s path and each participant. Imagine a sweaty mass in an open space twerking with everything that moves and with what does not, perreándose a las piedras como a la carne. When the beat makes you go down, everyone/everything follows. *Do not mistake it with a lack of agency but with channeling an astral force.* Everything is looped together by cross-knit looping, a textile technique used in the mantle’s border that links the different fibers and colors in this continuous dance.

If we look closer, we can notice tiny holes created by the knitting technique. The corpse wrapped by this mantle, which lay in some forgotten tomb shaped like our mother’s uterus, breathed through this porous fabric like your body breathes through the stained sheets while orgasming. This textile was a second skin, a placenta, that has now become an archive to envision a landscape of diverse cosmo-ontologies. Cecilia Vicuña did it in 1983. Let’s follow her. 

Like her, I will imagine the figures on the Nasca textile interacting in an invented scenery. Reflecting on her film here is done by creating another scenario from the mantle that inspired her. She invites us to imagine. To analyze her work without accepting this invitation would yield practices of immunity sterility. This time I will hazard an urgent tale, grounded in our bodies as in the textile. This time, as an act of continuing Vicuña’s proposal, I will imagine a story about abortion. 

How to talk about abortion from a narrative beyond neoliberalism’s short sightedness? The demand for our rights is constrained by the doggy cone collar that does not allow us to see beyond our individuality (and lick each other’s wounds). It is defined by a poor understanding of our body’s affectability by its surroundings, an isolation produced by an invented separation between the human and biomatter, [6]  blind repression that only racial capitalism has been able to carry and reinforce through the years. 

After the recent overturning Roe vs. Wade by the fascist Supreme Court of the United States,  how can we sustain our fight for our legal right to decide whether to carry on with a pregnancy while expanding our notion of fertility beyond our individuated bodies? American far-right has worked on redefining pregnancy interruptions as murders, exposing their misogyny with the misleading slogan of being “pro-life” while they espouse neo-extractivist projects that devastate the earth, pushing it to the brink of extinction. It is time to respond with a stronger narrative around abortion, a narrative summoning the rain, the mountains, and the land to enrich our resistance and channel an astral force en la lucha por la diversificación de nuestras prácticas reproductivas. While recognizing the work of the Marea Verde and many feminist and indigenous movements across Latin America. ¡Aborto libre como forma de resistencia! [8] 

So let me recite this story. It is a tale about fertility rites, beyond a notion of abortions as mere interruptions and as part of a more extensive collective reproductive cycle, an anecdote I would have loved to hear while I was aborting, hidden in a room back in my hometown, Lima, Peru, where my process was permeated with fear of a law that criminalized me and a Catholic social stigma that demonized me. 

The story begins with the cross-knit looped creatures of the Nasca mantle performing an ancient procession of fertility. Read the following lines out loud animating the textile’s fibers, como recitando un hechizo, sitting in a comfortable position accompanied by your community, or read it standing, grounding yourself in silence, or screaming while defending an abortion clinic. Read it to your children as a bedtime story, with your neighbors in the streets on a summer day or alone while you engage in a practice of care and masturbate. 

Léelo una y otra vez bebé. 

Once upon a time, in an anti-colonial space, where your sense of the world was not clouded by practices of dispossession and organic and inorganic holes and pores were leaking freely, a community intoxicated with San Pedro’s wisdom celebrated rituals of regeneration.  

Through dance and connection, a celebration of what the land has gifted in the harvesting was performed. Tomatoes, peanuts, yucca, cucumber. The earth was fertile and provided food, but fertility needed balance. To secure the earth’s future fertility, the earth’s soil desired to be nurtured. Lxs hijxs de la tierra decided to give back to their mother earth. Offerings will be buried in an act of love to the soil. 

Leaking, loving, leaking. 

Four figures dancing in a trance, wearing little skirts, are holding Salvia officinalis [9],  an herb used to regulate the menstrual cycle. The plant will be ingested to release the river of blood from between their thighs. The produced blood will be collected with a ceramic vase created from the dust de sus muertas. The vase portrays a vulva with a painted red stripe, pointing out the ceremonial use of the piece. Don’t you dare use it on an ordinary day. It holds too much energy. 

Another character carries a sacred plant, one that has been forgotten by some over time. A plant whose name I cannot remember, but perhaps our mother’s amniotic fluid does. 
Frogs, the guardians of fertility, accompany the procession.

Jumping, jumping.

Leaking, leaking. 

The most significant offering of love will be an aborted fetus gifted to the land, a gift of fertility. The land provides yucca, and gestating bodies offer clots. The cycle of reproductive labor, of “gestational labor,”[10]  does not live in invisibility in this procession. It is recognized as central to assuring balance. It is a process of equilibrium between human reproduction and the reproduction of the earth, both in constant relation. Our skins (the textile) and the earth are so porous, a porosity that allows for enmeshment. The feeling when the blood penetrates the ground is projected into their flesh. Here, bodies are not contained by their skin.

This particular abortion practice is not shaped by the kind of fear that infuses back-alley interventions when criminalized by law or when bodies are disciplined and conditioned by the medical-industrial complex when regulated by the state. 

This particular abortion practice is done in accompaniment. The gift of fertility through pregnancy interruption is produced in collectivity. The rain joins when blood clots flow. The Nasca textile shows us that the figure holding an unrecognized abortive plant is not alone in that procession [11].  Their sisters, the toads, and the stars care for them. Their process conveys less about their individuality and more about a methodology of fertility for all spheres of life. 

Let yourself leak and see the corn grow. 

Let yourself leak and see the frogs multiply. 

Pleasure is the fundamental means by which the interruption procedure can be effective. Through an enlarged clitoris created by orgasm, the cosmos will be grounded. Scream in pleasure while constellations are connected to the earth. They will be woven into the soil through the bodily fluids that will water the world [12].  The juice of an aborted embryo mixed with ejaculation creates the elixir of transformation, sustancia sagrada. Its filtration into the land is the communion with the cosmic world. 

This is the practice of abortion while in the midst of orgasm [13].  

The offered blood connected to the vaginal fluid reveals a powerful understanding of life (and death). The plants, fruits, and vegetables that will grow from this elixir to be eaten will be filled with wisdom to nurture the spirit while feeding the body. Did they recognize the taste of their body in the potatoes they ate?

Ceramic vases representing vulvas with enlarged clitoris next to painted birds, beings that inhabit the earthly and superior plane, will remain as archives of the ceremony. Use it on a typical day, and visions of the celebrated ritual could appear. The painted beans remain as archives of the aborted embryos. The Paracas Textile will prevail as an unseen record of this notion of fertility, with invisible stains of pasts leaks…


Leaked fetuses. 


Isn’t this a wonderful procession? 

After reading this possible tale, I want you to return to the textile and reflect on how this story transforms it. How did Cecilia Vicuña’s film alter the fiber archive in the 80s? How is it doing that today? Have these two stories, Vicuña’s piece and the tale of this abortion ritual, changed its fibers? But, more importantly, has this textile changed our understanding of abortion and gestational work? 

I promise that the story I told you is not entirely fictional. Maybe you can ask the birds about it. Were the pichones near one of the crowded Manhattan subway stations singing stories about the earth’s womb? Were they alerting us of the U.S. Supreme Court decision? They could be telling us about a collective practice of fertility in their singing, but some of us forgot how to listen. 

This is a story I will tell my daughters, reminding them how easy it is for me to get lost inventing the substratum that fills the gaps of the unknown [14],  hoping that one day they’ll abort in pleasure.

Would you join me in reciting stories of abortion as part of a collective fertility cycle? Inventing a world where our abortions go to the land to heal it from the erosion that the Capitalocene created, tale by tale, Misoprostol by Misoprostol [15]. 

Captura de Pantalla 2022-02-10 a la(s) 21.14.09.png

Nazca. Mantle ("The Paracas Textile"), 100-300 C.E. Cotton, camelid, fiber,

24 5/8 x 58 11/16 in (62.5 x 149 cm) Brooklyn Museum

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Romina Chul's notebook


[1] ¡Saidiya V. Hartman presente, papá!


[2] Como en evocaciones a La historia sin fin, porque la lucha anti-colonial por prácticas alternativas de (anti) reproducción es una historia sin fin.


[3] “…de qué sirve la tierra sin tu cuerpo,

De qué sirve la tierra sin mi cuerpo,

De que sirve mi cuerpo sin tu cuerpo

Y mi cuerpo y tu cuerpo de qué sirven

Si tu cuerpo y mi cuerpo son de tierra

Tierra más tierra nuestros hijos

Tierra con redondez la tierra

Y todo lo que existe sobre la tierra

Tierra tierra tierra tierra.” (Jorge Eduardo Eielson, Roma, 1954)


[4] An article by Cristina Cielo and Nancy Carrión Sarzosa, titled “Transformed Territories of Gendered Care Work in Ecuador’s Petroleum Circuit”, mentions how children of Zápara communities, located in Ecuador’s central southern Amazon region, draw their environment: “From a young age, children in these communities can describe the animals, plants and spirits with whom they share the territory, with perspective knowledgeable and affective detail. In workshops where we asked Zápara children to depict scenes from their lives, their drawings showed human figures as only a small part of a larger world far more populated by carefully detailed animals, plants, and spirits.” (Cielo & Carrión Sarzosa 2018, p. 13)

 Can we rely on the Zápara’s drawings to think otherwise about the Nasca mantle? Could this be a reference to consider this mantle as an image of the humans, animals, plants, and spirits that inhabited a territory at that time?


[5]The mantle is part of the Brooklyn Museum’s collection: “Nazca. Mantle (“The Paracas Textile”), 100-300 C.E. Cotton, camelid fiber, 24 5/8 × 58 11/16 in. (62.5 × 149 cm). Brooklyn Museum, John Thomas Underwood Memorial Fund, 38.121” 

[6]  “As a Southern mode of thinking, being and living, Andean phenomenology, by contrast, starts from another vantage point: it locates the subject in multirelational terms and blurs the binary distinctions between the human and biomatter into porous interactivity. The self is not bifurcated between inside and outside, and thus there is no simple divide into distinct formulations of the external other; instead the self embraces (and is embraced by) a sensual and integrated relationality with the natural elements and everything that surrounds us.” (Gómez-Barris 2017, p. 40 - 41) 

[7] FUCK the court,

FUCK the state,

they can’t make us procreate! (Bis)

They go back, we fight back! (Bis)

[8] Yela Quim - CELEBRAR


[9]Julia Hertz identifies the different elements of the mantle in her thesis “Plant imagery in the Brooklyn Museum mantle.” She mentions that the four figures holding the bell-shaped plant could be holding Salvia officinalis or mushrooms. Considering the diverse representations of female sexuality in Nasca Culture and how archeologists and historians have constantly failed in considering discourses that integrate its importance, I have decided to rescue the option of it being salvia officials. 

 [10] “The term ‘gestational labor’ is, in the first instance, a maneuvre intended to counteract ‘capital’s capacity,’ advanced through pedagogical texts such as In the Womb, “to disguise itself as progenitor.” World-weary left-leaning readers may feel that to insist on labor as the source of worldly value is an overfamiliar point. Such a hunch, though, is not borne out by Tsipy Ivry’s research, which asked whether the assumption that pregnancy is an active process has become embedded in prevalent twenty-first-century discourses. She concludes that, no, “the invisibility of women’s procreative labor” in narratives of how children come into the world remains oppressive. In sympathy with scholars like Ivry, affirming “gestational labor” defies the still-active ideologies that construct the womb as the passive object of efficient and expert harvesting, a space of waste, surplusness, or emptiness that is being profitably occupied.” (Lewis 2021, p.73)


[11] Julia Hertz explains that a specific character of the mantle has been recognize as a woman due to the long garment she is wearing but the plant she is holding has not been identified. Considering the portrayed elements of the mantle and the patriarchal lens through which it has been studied, could the mystery plant the figure is holding be related to female sexual and reproductive health? Could it be Ruta Graveolens or Loricaria Ferruginea, two abortive plants? 

 [12] “Reproductive justice and water justice are inseparable.” (Lewis 2021, p.)  


 [14] “Nuestra adivinación es una ciencia desfigurada que combina anticipación de desastres sociales + represalias de los mares contra civilizaciones destructoras + una memoria milimétrica sobre la escritura del mundo dominado.” (Elian Chali <3)

[15] Aborting with Misoprostol
Place under the tongue a dosis of 4 pills of Misoprostol of 200 micrograms each. The pills will remain there for 30 min. Then swallow the remains with water. Repeat the procedure three times every three hours. 
For the pain: Ibuprofen of 800 mg for the pain.

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