Needle & Thread
*Sewing is no joke, a play on the popular children's song, "Magtanim ay di biro (Planting [rice] is no joke)"
Gantala Press is an independent, non-profit, and volunteer-run Filipina publisher established in 2015. Their projects center around the platforming of women’s experiences, stories, and issues. Apart from publications, Gantala Press has organized workshops, talks, and fairs, and actively participates in people’s movements in the Philippines. They believe in the potential of political action in feminist publishing and solidarity work. A fraction of their sales support information and fundraising campaigns for communities in the margins.
Photo: Needle & Thread in a #BigasHindiBala needlebook that we sold in support of one of Amihan’s fundraising campaigns, March 2021
The Tagalog word “gantala” actually means “spool”; we first encountered the word while searching for a name for our women’s press in 2015. We wanted a word that connoted “women’s work” such as embroidery, weaving, mending. We have always considered sewing to be close to our hearts as creators.
Thus, it was only natural for Gantala Press to engage in sewing projects particularly with the Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women, where some members of Gantala volunteer with and which has co-published some of our books. Gantala helped organize two sessions of a banner making workshop titled “Magtahi ay di biro,”* where Amihan National Chairperson Zenaida Soriano spoke about issues that peasant women faced such as red-tagging or the effects of neoliberal policies on food security before teaching the participants how to sew cloth banners. The banners were mostly calls that were flashed in protest actions: “Peasant Women Not Terrorists!” “Junk Liberalization Law!”
(It has always been our pride and honor to be gifted a “Gantala Press” banner by Nanay Zen early in our existence as a collective. We display that banner whenever we sell our books in community fairs.)
Members of Gantala helped organize Rural Women Advocates, the volunteer arm of Amihan, in 2019. RUWA helps Amihan in its various information and fundraising drives. We sew protest calls onto old clothes, or needlebooks, and sell them. Some allies donate homemade/home-sewn clothes to the campaigns. The proceeds are turned over to peasant communities that are victims of harassment and violence by the government.
Lately, some members of the collective started making cloth books that involved a lot of writing and drawing using needle and thread. We hope and are excited to make more cloth books, cloth dolls, and similar sewing projects.