Andean Textile Talks

Mark your calendars for the 2022 series of Andean Textile Talks! Led by subject matter experts, these 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.

2022 Textile Talks

In our first ATA Textile Talk of 2022, you’ll learn how Andean weavers use corn husks in their weaving, which natural dye was part of the Incan taxation system, why Andean brides often receive handwoven jakimas as wedding gifts, and so much more.

The Textile Talk will feature our new ATA video “Textile Traditions of the Peruvian Highlands.” Narrated by well-known doubleweave author and teacher, Jennifer Moore, this visual presentation will give you an up-close look at Peru’s extraordinary indigenous textiles and the skilled artisans who create them. Join us as we explore the Andean way of spinning, dyeing, and knitting, as well as the tools to create belts, bands, textiles, woven edges, and skirt borders. Through stunning imagery, you’ll gain insight into the weaving of double-weave, ikat, tapestry, and discontinuous and supplementary warps.

The video highlights weavers, dyers, knitters, and spinners who are cooperative members of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) as they work to preserve and revitalize their traditional textile arts—including some techniques dating back to the Incas.

Presenters: Jennifer Moore and Ercil Howard-Wroth

“Textile Traditions of the Peruvian Highlands” was created by Jennifer Moore and Ercil Howard-Wroth. Jennifer holds an MFA in fibers. Her work, which explores mathematical relationships and musical patterns in doubleweave, has been featured in exhibitions and publications throughout the world. Ercil, a long-time educator, teaches fiber arts to adults and children. Her current work brings together her love for traditional societies and her twenty-plus years of working in the textile arts. Both Jennifer and Ercil serve on the ATA board of directors.

Peru’s long-lived Wari and vast Inca empires employed sophisticated devices called khipu to record information, such as census data and labor obligations. Made of cords, both Inca and Wari khipu seem to have recorded not only quantitative or statistical content, but narrative information as well. The variation in cord structures, colors, wrapping patterns, and knots encoded and conveyed information, while the basic elements—flexible knotted cords—offered a lightweight and compact means of transporting information across distances.

Revealing fascinating facts about this simple but surprisingly precise form of record keeping and communication, pre-Columbian art curator Juan Antonio Murro will share the most recent findings about these intriguing devices. With a formal education in archaeology and museum studies, Juan Antonio Murro joined Dumbarton Oaks Museum in 2004 and currently serves as the associate curator of its pre-Columbian collection. In his role, he oversees the care, preservation, research, and diffusion of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. Among his latest projects is the 2019 “Written in Knots: Undeciphered Accounts of Andean Life,” the most comprehensive khipus exhibition to date.

Coca is not cocaine, and to equate the leaf with the raw alkaloid is as misguided as suggesting that the delicious flesh of a peach is equivalent to the hydrogen cyanide found in every peach pit. Yet, for nearly a century, this has been precisely the legal and political position of nations and international organizations throughout the world.

In Peru, programs to eliminate the traditional fields, supported by the United States, began 50 years before a black-market trade in the drug existed. The real issue was not cocaine but, rather, the cultural identity and survival of those who traditionally revered coca. Coca, as consumed by Indigenous peoples for nearly 8,000 years, is a mild and benign stimulant that is beneficial to the health and highly nutritious, with no evidence of toxicity or addiction. In the Andes, to chew coca, to hallpay, is to transcend self and become part of the social, moral, and spiritual nexus that gives meaning to life. Efforts to deny Runakuna access to the leaves, to eradicate the traditional fields, are policies of cultural genocide.



Wade Davis is a cultural anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author, photographer, and filmmaker whose work has taken him from the Amazon to Tibet, Africa to Australia, Polynesia to the Arctic. Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society from 2000 to 2013, he is currently Professor of Anthropology and the BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia. Author of 22 books, including One River, The Wayfinders, and Into the Silence, winner of the 2012 Samuel Johnson prize, the top nonfiction prize in the English language.

Wade Davis holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his Ph.D. in ethnobotany. Mostly through the Harvard Botanical Museum, he spent over three years in the Amazon and Andes as a plant explorer, living among fifteen Indigenous groups in eight Latin American nations while making some 6,000 botanical collections. He is also a member of Andean Textile Arts’ Advisory Board.

Photos by Joe Coca.

Photo by Thayne Tuason.

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.