"Another ethnomathematical perspective to be considered is that the secret codes in quilts are part of a longstanding tradition that goes back to Africa and the encoding of textiles there. The African precedent is that in these textiles, all of the designs have a meaning. According to Eglash (2002), geometrical African textile designs may have traveled to the Americas with the slaves.
During the time of slavery in the United States and Brasil, most everything that was “African” was forbidden. In so doing, “enslaved Africans were prohibited from drumming, speaking in their native languages, or learning to read and write in English” (Wilson, 2002, pp. 5). They were also prohibited from placing any “African” design on a quilt. What was shrewdly, indeed very creatively done by those who wanted to communicate was to take American quilt patterns and give these patterns meaning.
Quilts, on the other hand could be used to transcend the problems of one’s immediate environment because they warm the body and the spirit by using colors “that had special meanings, represented the heavens, their ancestors, the spirits, the land, the people and/or secret societies from different tribes” (Wilson, 2002, pp. 6). This was one way of bringing a new form of life into slave cabins or into the lives of those who were enslaved. Quilt patterns, and especially those that are called improvisational, are composed of fragments, remnants of cloth; so fractured cloth comes together and creates something new. This is really a metaphor, which addresses what happened during the time of slavery because in spite of the difficulty, in spite of families being torn apart, there was always a coming together with the hope of liberation, and emancipation."

secret codes in quilts

"I say that because these quilts are ways of creating my own legacy because I don’t have one that’s been handed down to me. I don’t have one that is available to me because of my queerness and my otherness, so the study of quilts for me is almost like a re-parenting type of shit, a way of creating my own story, my own legacy by looking at the idea that legacy doesn’t even exist. I don’t know how to make it sound clear, but it’s a way of saying that there’s a lineage within me because I come from a long, long line of tailors, none of which taught me the skill, because of their beliefs––or their lack of––in me. There’s something about reclaiming my ancestry and my heritage through quilting.

I also was dealing with lots of assimilation growing up in a small town in Indiana, as a queer brown person. It really sucked. So there’s some Indiana in there, too. Quilting was a big part of Indiana heritage that was around me but never for me. I didn’t learn about crafting within other Indigenous and Black and Latino cultures until well into my study of them because I was so surrounded by the white version of it. So to me it’s reclaiming a whole lot of things while trying to tap into my ancestors. I don’t know anything about them, so it’s a little bit of a spiritual practice for me. That’s a very long way of saying that. I do love the utilitarianism of them. I love that there’s a history of women’s work. I love that there’s a history of labor organizing around them, so it feels like a continuation through material of the work I’ve been doing on the ground, organizing here in Detroit." — Mother Cyborg

quilts = creating legacy

No tech bros, only tlatoanis
At a time when europe threw its shit out of windows
we had an ecological garbage disposal system

We imagined milpas
a perfectly symbiotic floating garden that fed a city of 400,000
Our engineers built watercourses to ensure access to fresh water

Larger than most european cities
something worth destroying
the conquistador heart felt

At first contact
you thought we were afraid of you
we kept leaning back every time you came closer
your ego was loooooud
you know what else was loud?
your damn pits!
europeans knew nothing about hygiene
we showered everyday

They keep telling us
we have no culture
we're uncivilized
we're savages
we know nothing about technology

Gather around
let me tell you
about Tenochtitlan
maybe you would learn
about technology
about sustainability
let's go back
500 years
to reach
the next 500

To tonal ye omotlatiuh
To tonal ye omoixpoliuh
Iuan zentlayouayan otechkateh
Machtikmatih man okzepa uallaz
Man okzepa kizakiz
Iuan yankuiyotika tech tlauilikeh
Machinoka omapakah miktlan maniz
Man zanueliui titozentlalikan titonechikokan
Iuan toyolnepantla tiktlatikan
Nochi tlen toyolokitlazohtla
Iuan man tlatkiomatih ue chalchihuitl
Man tikinpolpolokan toteokaluan
Tokalmekauan totlachkouan
Totelpochkauan tokuikakaluan
Man mozel kauakan to ohtin
Iuan man tochan techtzakua
Kin ihkuan kitzouaz to yankuik tonal
In tahtzitzin iuan nantzitzin
Man ail ilkauakan kimiliuzkeh intelpochuan
Iuan machtiuazkeh mopilhuan inoka nemizkeh
Uel kenin yoko
Kin axkan totlazoh tlalnantzin anauak
In tlanekiliz iaun tlapeluiliz tonetoltiliztli
Iuan zanye mopampa token mauiliz iaun token popoliz
Oki zelikeh to tlachkatzitziuan
Iaun tlen to tahtzitzin auik yoleh kayopan
Okiximach tokateh yoyelizpan
Axkan tehuantin tehuantikin tekimakah in topiluan
Amo kin ilkauazkeh kin nonotzazkeh mopiluan
Uel kenin yez kenin imakokiz
Iuan uel kenin chikakauiz
Iuan uel kenin kiktzon ueyika nehtoltiliztli
Inin totlazoh tlalnantzin anauak

Our sacred energy has already been well concealed,
our venerable sun already worthily disappeared his face,
and in total darkness deigned to leave us.

We certainly know (that) again he will deign to return,
that again it will be good to leave
and again it will come worthily to enlighten us.

As long as there among the dead please stay.
Let's get together very quickly,
Let's get together
and in the middle of our hearts we hide
all our hearts are honored by loving
and we know our wealth
in us as a great esmerald.

Let's make our sacred places disappear,
ours Calmécac our ball games,
ours Telpochcalli, our singing houses;
Let our paths remain alone
and our homes that preserve us.

Until when the new our sun deigns,
the venerated fathers and the venerated mothers
never forget
tell your youth
and that their children teach them
as long as they deign to live,
just how good has it been
until now our beloved Anahuac
where our venerated deceased take care of us,
your will and your desire,
and only also because of our respect for them
and our humility before them
that our revered ancestors received
and that our revered parents,
to one side and another in the veins of our heart,
they made them known in our being.

Our children
Don't forget, let them know
to your children intensely as it will be
the its elevation,
as our venerable sun will rise again
and precisely how it will worthily show its strength
just as it will do to complete grandly
his worthy promise is
our revered and loved mother land Anahuac!

Anáhuac Huei Tlahtohuani ~ Tenochtitlán-México
mahtlactlihuan yei cuetzpalin, tlaxochimaco, yei calli
(trece lagartija, se ofrendan flores, tres casa)
(Lunes 12 de agosto de 1521 del calendario europeo juliano)