In the early 1960s, when she already had a flourishing international career as a singer-songwriter, Violeta Parra began making canciones que se pintan (songs that paint themselves): a series of paintings, sculptures, and embroideries that were a natural outgrowth of her music. Her arpilleras – huge embroideries – are the most complex of these works: ancestral images inspired by pre-Columbian art, telling stories full of timeless emotion. They show women, men, or animals gathered in festive, historic, or spiritual scenes. Thick wool stitches, bits of macramé, and knitted braid are used to lend three-dimensionality to the figures. Combate naval I (1964) depicts Chile’s struggles during the War of the Pacific (1879–1884), with national hero Captain Arturo Prat proudly brandishing a Chilean flag as his ship, the Esmeralda, sinks. In El circo (1961), a group of colourful characters are singing and dancing, perhaps inebriated by the fumes emanating from a large pitcher at the centre, or perhaps fallen victim to the evils pouring from this strange Pandora’s box. Parra’s arpilleras were a tool for relaying deeply felt needs that were private and shared, local and international, and tied to both high and low culture.