Wayuu

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The Wayuu (pronounced "Wah-You") people are an indigenous Latin American group inhabiting the visually striking desert of La Guajira Peninsula which borders Colombia and Venezuela.  The Wayuu live in small settlements called "rancherias" which consist of five or six houses.  Within these rancherias, the Wayuu people are able to preserve a way of life that has been passed down through the generations and remains unscathed by modern culture.  Organized in matrilineal clans, the Wayuu children carry their mother's last name, making the Wayuu women not only the center of the family but cultural leaders as well.  One of the most significant aspects of culture that the Wayuu women practice is the art of crocheting.

The “Mochila Wayuu” is their most known traditional craft; however, using the same weaving technique they create other products including coin purses and clutches.To create each unique design Wayuu women use a specific technique of placing a single cotton thread in a manual loom. This technique has been used for centuries having been passed down from one generation of Wayuu women to the next. Wayuu women learn the art of crocheting these bags at an early age and legends say that Wayuu women were originally taught to weave and create these complex patterns in their designs to mirror the webs created by a spider-like deity Wale ´Kerü.

 

Plenty of thought goes into each mochila as the weaver takes care in creating an elaborate design that reveals a story. Stories give a cultural history to these mochilas and each mochila inspires a story that shares the traditions of the Wayuu indigenous community while making each bag a very special and one of a kind. 

 

It can take 2 weeks up to one full month to weave a single bag depending on the complexity of the design and skill of the weaver. Weaving these bags takes great dedication from these Wayuu women and really shows how devoted they are to their craft! Today, the Wayuu bags are a crucial part of the Wayuu economy and means for financial support, which enables them to preserve their culture, traditions, and way of life.

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