Andean Textile Talks

Mark your calendars for our new Andean Textile Talks series starting February 2021! Led by subject matter experts, these six bi-monthly virtual conversations (via Zoom) will cover topics such as Andean culture, textile traditions, historical and current events, and even food or drink. The hour-long webinars are $10 and include a presentation followed by a Q&A.

All 2021 Textile Talks

In the Peruvian Andes, textiles are omnipresent in the lives of indigenous people;  they are both eminently practical and stunningly beautiful as generations of weavers have applied their creativity to invent techniques and designs found nowhere else in the world. Textiles still form a powerful part of identity. But this identity is at risk. Indigenous people still face racism on a daily basis. And a globalized market economy that produces cheap, machine-made products destroys respect and interest in the hand-made. Infringement on the intellectual rights of native peoples only makes this worse. The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) was established in 2000 by Andean weavers and their supporters to aid in the survival of Cusqueñan textile traditions and to provide support to the indigenous people who create them.

Following the Thread is a 25-minute short documentary that presents some of the communities affiliated with CTTC and includes special celebrations and ceremonies, rituals with the animals (llamas and sheep), natural dyeing processes, weaving and knitting demonstrations, and much more. The hour-long online program (via Zoom) will begin with an interview of Kathy Brew, followed by a viewing of the documentary, and a Q&A afterwards.

Guest Speaker: Kathy Brew

Kathy Brew is an award-winning video maker whose work includes documentaries, experimental work, and public television productions.  Design is One: Lella & Massimo Vignelli, on the acclaimed designers, is currently in release and has been featured internationally at festivals and other venues. A much earlier experimental documentary work, Mixed Messages, examines gender stereotyping in popular culture and recently screened at the 2020 International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Kathy was a Fulbright Scholar in 2018 and spent four months in Peru, where she did initial editing of the documentary Following the Thread  from material that she and her late husband Roberto Guerra had previously filmed with some of CTTC’s communities. She also created  a portfolio of photographs. The film has recently been finalized with Andean-sensitive music composed by Peruvian artist Pauchi Sasaki. Distribution efforts will begin in 2021.

Additionally, Kathy recently served as guest curator for the Museum of Modern Art’s Documentary Fortnight (2016-2020). Other positions include: curator for Lincoln Center’s NY Video Festival; co-director of the Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History;  director, Thundergulch/Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s new media arts initiative; curatorial consultant, WNET, Reel New York. Her writing has been published in Women, Art & Technology; Documentary Magazine; and Civilization. She teaches at the School of Visual Arts MFA Art Practice Department.

This Andean Textile Talk features author and Bolivian expert Kevin Healy, who will introduce us to Antropologos del Surandino (ASUR). ASUR is a Bolivian cultural foundation that has pioneered efforts to revitalize the Andean textile traditions in southern Bolivia, particularly in the areas of Potosi and Chuquisaca. Since the late 1980s, ASUR has developed community-based programs that provide a way for the region’s rural indigenous weavers to continue creating and producing their beautiful Andean designs. Kevin will discuss how ASUR ’s innovative work has provided a commercial outlet for the weavers to sell their hand-woven products to growing tourist markets in the capital city of Sucre, while also establishing a textile museum visited by multitudes of Bolivian schoolchildren and national and foreign tourists. To round out the talk, Kevin will highlight the various long-term impacts of ASUR ’s important ongoing work.

Guest Speaker: Kevin Healy

Kevin Healy received degrees from Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Cornell, the latter in development sociology. A former Peace Corps volunteer in the Lake Titicaca region of Peru, he also worked with the Catholic University of Paraguay as a social science advisor.  For decades, Kevin worked as a grant officer of the Inter-American Foundation in its programs in the Andean countries of Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador.  He has also funded grassroots development projects in Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama. Since 1999, Kevin taught graduate-level courses on Latin American grassroots development and indigenous social movements as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, George Washington University, American University, and the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University.  Currently, he teaches courses in Georgetown ’s Center for Latin American Studies on indigenous social movements in Latin America and drug trafficking in the Americas. He also lectures on Bolivian development and other related topics. His book, Llamas, Weavings and Organic Chocolate, Multicultural Grassroots Development in the Andes and Amazon of Bolivia, features grassroots development success stories with which he has been associated as a funder.

ASUR women weavers practicing their designs.

ASUR weaver with cartoon for weaving.

Pre-Columbian Andean weavers were as masterful as any the world has ever known, working on simple backstrap looms but using a wealth of sophisticated techniques. One of these techniques, doubleweave pick-up, was developed in the Andes about 3,000 years ago. While still being done in other parts of the world, doubleweave died out in Peru after the arrival of the Spanish in the fifteenth century.

Jennifer Moore will present her personal story of being drawn to Peru initially because of its doubleweave heritage, and how she became more deeply involved with the country’s people and textiles on each of her visits there. In 2012 Nilda Callañaupa, director of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) asked Jennifer to teach doubleweave to a group of Quechua weavers in the CTTC weaving communities at the second Tinkuy textile conference that was held in Cusco in 2013. Jennifer will share her journey, from her preparations to teach at Tinkuy to the success of her students as they mastered the doubleweave techniques and passed on their new knowledge to other weavers in their communities.

Doubleweave has now been fully revitalized in the CTTC weaving communities. With each passing year, more weavers become adept in the techniques and are incorporating imagery from their culture and daily lives. For many of these weavers, doubleweave has become a vibrant form of creative expression.

Registration opens May 10

Guest Speaker: Jennifer Moore

Jennifer Moore holds an MFA in fibers and specializes in exploring mathematical patterns and musical structures in doubleweave wall hangings. She has exhibited throughout the world, receiving numerous awards for her work, and has been featured in many weaving publications. Jennifer lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico and travels extensively to teach workshops in doubleweave, color, and geometric design. In 2013, Jennifer was invited to teach doubleweave to indigenous Quechua weavers in Peru, where they are once again excelling in this technique that had been discontinued after the Spanish conquest. She is the author of The Weaver’s Studio: Doubleweave, Doubleweave: Revised & Expanded, several doubleweave videos and online courses, and numerous articles.

Jennifer is a board member of Andean Textile Arts and has served as treasurer of the nonprofit organization for the past six years. She has participated in all four of the Tinkuy conferences sponsored by the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, and was a board leader on the 2019 ATA tour to Peru.

Doubleweave contest during el Ecuentro 2019.

CTTC weavers learning doubleweave at Tinkuy 2013.

A completed doubleweave textiles at Tinkuy 2017.

With brilliant images, contextual photos and actual examples of contemporary knitted caps, Cynthia LeCount Samaké shows that, contrary to expectations, knitters in the Andes continue to produce amazing headgear and woven textiles for their own use. Their intricate and innovative work today surprises viewers by going beyond typical colors and motifs, while remaining true to traditional techniques and form.  Using bright synthetic yarns, size 0 metal needles, and three colors in a row, young men looking to impress the girls often knit the most striking motifs. Rapacious multi-colored monsters and brightly striped dancing devils balance on proud, tipsy heads at Carnival in Bolivia! Join Cynthia for a whirlwind tour of the latest fancy, festival knitting from the Andean highlands.

Guest Speaker: Cynthia LeCount Samaké

Cynthia LeCount Samaké is a textile expert with an MA in art history from UC Davis, California. She has been guest curator for museum exhibitions of Andean knitting and Carnival costume, and taught world textiles for many years in the Design Department at UC Davis. Twenty-five years ago, she began Behind the Scenes Adventures, organizing textile tours to far-flung parts of the world to share her love of knitting, weaving, and festivals. She still accompanies all the tours, and especially loves the textiles of Bolivia, Bhutan, and Uzbekistan. See her website for more info.

Chullos from Tarabuco, Bolivia.

“Every piece of cloth they made, for whatever purpose, was made with four selvages. Cloth was never woven longer that what was needed for a single blanket or tunic. Each garment was not cut, but made with a piece as the cloth came from the loom and before weaving it they fixed its approximate breadth and length.” (Garcilaso de la Vega, Royal Commentaries on the Inca [1609] Book 4, Chapter 13, p 214)

Amongst the weaving traditions around the world, a textile with four complete, uncut woven edges—selvages—is a rare thing. And yet, it has been the tradition in the Andes for thousands of years. A cloth with four selvages is uncut, and complete, woven to a specific size and shape for its intended purpose. These finished, woven edges meant that the weaver knew exactly what she wanted to make, planned it to be what it was supposed to be, and created it as a compete object that was wholly conceived. Weaving a four-selvaged cloth is an act of intent. This presentation will examine this special method of weaving, within the extraordinary Andean textile traditions.

Guest Speaker: Elena Phipps

Elena Phipps, Ph.D., Columbia University (pre-Columbian art history and archaeology, 1989) has focused her professional work on the study of the history of textile materials and techniques in cultural contexts. She was senior conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1977- 2010), where she co-curated two major textile exhibitions: The Colonial Andes: Tapestries and Silverwork 1430-1830 (2004), (the accompanying catalogue received the CAA Alfred Barr Jr. Award and the Mitchell Prize), and The Interwoven Globe: Worldwide Textile Trade (2013). In 2013, Elena guest curated the Fowler exhibition, The Peruvian Four-Selvaged Cloth: Ancient Threads, New Directions, and authored its catalogue. She was president of the Textile Society of America (2011-14) and has taught textile history, techniques, and cultures in UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance and at the Fowler Museum since 2011.

Artist Unknown (Chancay or Rimac, central coast Peru); Panel with crowned figures bearing staffs; Fowler Museum at UCLA, X65.8730; Gift of the Wellcome Trust.

Pilgrimage is a way to live harmoniously with nature , pay tribute to the mountain spirits, and sustain strong relationships with the natural elements—keys to a rich and beneficial life. The spirit of pilgrimage to sacred mountains links indigenous mountain peoples of two distant areas of the world, Peru and Tibet.

Quechua speaking Peruvians hike to the Sinkara Valley, at 15,000 feet, during the annual Qoyllur Rit’i pilgrimage to pay homage to Apu Ausangate, the mountain spirit of the Cuzco region. At an altitude of 20,800 feet, Mt. Ausangate dominates the Vilcanota range southeast of Cuzco. Andrea will discuss the textiles and their important relationships to Apu Ausangate.

In a similar spirit of homage and resistance to an occupying political force, Tibetans circumambulate the 32-mile pilgrimage route of their most sacred mountain, 22,038-foot Mount Kailash, in western Tibet as the spiritual journey of a lifetime. Bon, the original spiritual tradition of Tibet, traces its roots to 17,000 years ago in Tajik. It still exists and is gaining momentum through teachings in the Western world. In Bon, an important aspect is the opening of pilgrimage routes by its highest lamas (spiritual teachers).


Guest Speaker: Dr. Andrea Heckman

Andrea has been a cultural and trekking guide for the international adventure travel company Wilderness Travel for forty years. She has made the sacred pilgrimage of Qoyllur Rit’i near Mt. Ausangate, Peru many times while living there and conducting research for her PhD in Latin American studies (anthropology and art history). In 1996, she was a Fulbright Fellow in the Ausangate region of Peru, studying textiles and rituals. She has been to Nepal several times, and in 2000, she hiked the sacred pilgrimage route around Mount Kailash, Tibet. She is an avid photographer and the author of Woven Stories: Andean Textiles and Rituals (2003: UNM Press), winner of the John Collier Jr. National Book Award for Excellence in Still Photography from the Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA) of the American Anthropology Association, and serves as a board member of SVA. She also directed and produced the award winning documentary films: Ausangate (Peru), Crossing Bridges (NM), Woven Stories: Weaving Traditions of Northern New Mexico (NM), Bon: Mustang to Menri (Nepal), Bon in Dolpo (Nepal), Behind the Mask (Peru), and Bon and the West (France, Poland, Mexico, India and USA). Her new book, Seeing Through the Eyes of Others, will be available in November 2021.

Market in Ccatca.

Carrying flags during during the annual Qoyllur Rit’i pilgrimage.