Young Weavers Honor Past While Working Toward a Better Future

In January, we introduced you to Lourdes Sullca Gutieerez and Nery Condori Layme, two young weavers from the Peruvian highland village of Accha Alta. In this post, these two amazing women tell us more about what weaving means to them, including the difficulties they face and the future they envision.

For young weavers Lourdes Sullca Gutieerez and Nery Condori Layme weaving is a natural part of their lives. It is a way to honor and pass on the wisdom of their grandparents and the ancestors before them. “I feel proud,” says Nery about her weaving. “I want to learn more to pass on to other generations.”

Lourdes agrees. She enjoys weaving and her passion is apparent as she points out the lliklla (shoulder cloth) she is wearing. It is one of her favorite items to make. In addition to use as clothing, llikllas are woven larger so they can carry babies. A blanket-like lliklla is also used on the farm. “We call it oqesa because it has few designs,” Lourdes explains. “Mostly it is plain because it is a work blanket.” 

Nery (left) and Lourdes (right).

The textiles these young weavers create are practical as well as beautiful. But, like many things in the harsh conditions of Peru’s highlands, weaving does not come without its challenges. “For me, it is difficult to find wool, because not all of us have animals,” says Nery. And, as Lourdes points out, buying the wool is often hard because of the cost. 

Even for those with animals, it takes time to shear the wool and spin it, before they can even start weaving. “Spinning is a lot of work,” says Lourdes. “First the wool is spun, then we twist the threads, wash, make skeins, and dye.”

According to Nery, young weavers like Lourdes and herself need more weaving materials like wool. This is where the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC), with support from ATA donations, comes in. The CTTC provides the young weavers with wool and weaving tools, such as khallwas (weaving swords) and ruk’is (sharpened llama or alpaca bone used to beat weft threads into place).

The center also provides Nery and Lourdes with opportunities to exchange weaving knowledge. Both have been to Tinkuy, a meeting of weavers held every four years in Cusco, Peru. “I met with weavers from other towns and saw other styles of designs,” Nery remembers. “We want to learn designs with new techniques.”

Learning, whether related to weaving or their schoolwork, is important to both young women. They see their community’s grandmothers, even with failing eyesight and aching backs, continue to weave to support their children. “Now the children of the weavers are entering higher educational institutions so they can be better off than their parents,” says Lourdes. For example, Nery wants to study accounting after high school. “I like working in offices,” she says.

They also are excited about trying new things related to promoting their weaving. Nery describes how the weavers could use Instagram and other social networks. “We could make known everything we do and how much we sacrifice doing this work. We should show the weaving process and demand a fair price.” Lourdes also sees social networking as a way to reach new buyers for their handwoven pieces.

Looking to the future, the girls say that their culture is progressing, particularly in the raising of livestock and the resurgence of the Quechua language. “Knowing how to speak Quechua helps us to sell and communicate our prices among other Quechua speakers,” explains Nery. Both know how to speak Quechua as well as Spanish, but they’d also like to learn English. 

As their culture continues to progress, Lourdes and Nery believe weaving will remain an important part of it. “All that we do brings weaving forward,” says Lourdes. “Weaving has been known since ancient times, our ancestors did it. We are going to teach our children so that weaving does not disappear. Weaving will grow larger and larger.”

Many thanks to Richard Ferguson for translating this interview from Spanish. 

Lead photo: A young girl from Accha Alta learns to weave traditional patterns.

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