The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) has a well-guarded secret. We work with nine amazing groups of young weavers from nine of our ten communities. For the past several years these groups of children and young adults have gathered in their communities’ weaving centers every Saturday to learn from their elders and carry on weaving traditions that could have been lost forever between the cracks of time.
This year the CTTC began to develop more programs and opportunities for the Young Weavers Groups (formerly called Jakima Clubs). On Saturday, June 6th, we held the First Gathering of Young Weavers, a program we hope to make a bi-annual event. At 8:00 in the morning 195 young people and their adult coordinators from the communities descended on Cusco in their best ponchos, blankets, and layers of polleras (traditional black skirts). Despite the huge, open galleries and doorways of Museo y Catacumbas del Convento de San Francisco de Asís del Cusco where we held the event, the number of chattering children still managed to fill the museum and its gorgeous courtyard.
This First Gathering of Young Weavers brought together all the children of the Young Weavers Groups in a city where many of them had never traveled before. They came to share the textile traditions of their home communities and learn about those from others. The day started with a presentation by Ángel Callañaupa on his illustrations that give humorous and vibrant life to the stories and legends of the Andes, many of which involve textiles in one way or another.* The children where giggling in their seats, craning their necks to get a better glimpse of the many creatures that Señor Callañaupa has brought to life with his brush.
Our second guest speaker was Rosa Pumayalli Quispe, a young weaver who participated in the first ever Young Weavers Group roughly fifteen years ago. She spoke about the challenges and successes of her time learning to weave and growing up as a young girl in Chinchero; how her knowledge of textiles helped her in a tourism major, and the importance of keeping traditions alive.
The highlight of the morning was an interactive game and a tour of San Francisco with its beautiful floor-to-ceiling Colonial paintings, carved wooden choir, and mysterious crypts. The tour guides from San Francisco loved explaining to the children about the guinea pig on the plates of the disciples in the Last Super painting and whose bones were scattered across the floors. In the interactive game, groups of children circled through nine stations where they raced to answer questions about fibers, dyes, designs, and other aspects of the weaving tradition here.
In the afternoon we opened the First Gathering of Young Weavers to the public and the children displayed their textiles in the courtyard. Everyone who came, from international visitors to local Cusqueñans, were thoroughly impressed by the children and what they are accomplishing by continuing the traditions of their communities.
With support from organizations like San Francisco and our international donors, we can continue to hold Gatherings of Young Weavers in Cusco each year and support them in their goal to save their textile traditions.
*You can enjoy Ángel’s artwork in Beyond the Stones of Machu Picchu: Folk Tales and Stories of Inca Life by Libby VanBuskirk. Available from ClothRoads, Amazon, or from your local bookseller.
YOU CAN HELP
You can help support the Young Weavers Groups by making a donation today. The next major project in the program is a class, “Textiles of Peru,” that will be presented in the nine participating communities. The day-long class uses interactive activities and visual materials to teach children about their textile traditions from pre-Incan cultures to the Inca. This class will expose children, in many cases for the first time, to their rich textile heritage.
ATA is providing support for this program, and your tax-deductible donation will help. Go to www.andeantextilearts.org to make an on-line donation, or send a check to Andean Textile Arts, PO Box 367, Corvallis, OR 97339.