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Weaving to the Wayuu

There is a saying amongst the Wayuu, “To be a woman is to know how to weave.” The skill of weaving is highly respected within their matriarchal culture and is a symbol of creativity, wisdom and status. Every clan can be distinguished by a particular woven pattern. A Wayúu girl learns the ancient craft from her female relatives during her sacred coming of age ritual that begins with her first menstruation. As the Wayúu are staunch women led tribes, this rite of passage prepares girls for their leadership role as women. During this period, girls live in isolation for long periods (as long as a year) and are taught the customs and beliefs of the Wayúu, how to take care of a home, how to cook, how to mediate conflicts and, importantly, how to weave. The mythological origin of the weaving tradition can be traced back to a wise spider called Walekerü. According to Wayuu legend, Walekeru taught the first Wayúu women how to weave creative patterns into different accessories. During the weaving process, the women use yarn (acrylic thread has replaced natural fibers) to single- or double-thread multi-patterned textiles infused with meaning and symbolism based on their personal life experiences. The patterns are called Kanaasü, which translates roughly to “the art of weaving drawing,” and are a collection of iconographic designs inspired by Wayúu cosmology, legends and the natural landscapes that the Wayuu people live in. Every handcrafted bag is, therefore, unique to the individual weaver who uses Kanaasü to represent elements of her environment, daily life, society and even her transcendent view of the universe. The maker’s work tells a story, describes her dreams and is, essentially, a reflection of her soul. Depending on the crochet design, a single mochila can require up to a month .

This world, at times, seems too big for us. Massive amounts of energy going in the wrong directions. That inertia can seem overwhelming for one person. But one person, joining others can have an impact. Particularly when the impulse is pure and inspired by a thing of beauty. Our purchase decisions can change the planet’s fate and people’s lives for the better.

Monica Phromsavanh Hand

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