Chuspas: Small Bags with Big Significance

Virginia GlennIndigenous Connections, Textile Traditions

When I started researching this topic, I was merely focused on the one very old chuspa that I had in my collection, which I purchased in Peru in 1980. Chuspa is a Quechua word for bag or purse. Elaborate chuspas are used as part of dancers’ costumes during festivals; every-day, smaller chuspas often carry money (these chuspas are also called monederos). I knew that chuspas also are used for carrying coca leaves, but I never thought about the significance of coca to the Andean culture. I had only been told that the Indigenous Quechua speakers would chew the leaves to help give them energy or to keep from getting hungry. While chuspas are made using traditional techniques, the sacred substance … Read More

Unraveling the Mystery of Khipus

Virginia GlennTextile Traditions

I don’t remember the first time I read about khipus (also spelled quipus). Most likely, it was the summer that I spent at a Spanish language institute in Mexico and was assigned the topic “Who were the Incas?” for a culture report. I remember being intrigued with the mathematical possibilities of something that sounded like a soft abacus. But I set aside my curiosity in order to focus on learning the names of all the Inca leaders—names that all seemed to have way too many letters. So now, all these years later, I was very interested in the ATA Textile Talk, “Written in Knots: What We Know Today About Khipus,” presented by Juan Antonio Murro, the curator for pre-Columbian art … Read More