The Wayuu People
Wayuu people are Latin-American natives who live in Northeastern Colombia in a region know as La Guajira. To reach their settlemnts, one must travel along remote tracks through steep sand dunes and dry forests. Here you will see isolated settlements composed of 5 or 6 small houses called “rancherias”, each with walls constructed from mud and hay and with roofs made of palm leaves or cactus.
The woman is at the centre of each Wayuu family and is crucial in keeping their culture alive, ensuring that her way of life and traditions are passed down through the generations. One such tradition is the practise of weaving Wayuu Mochilas.
The weaver tells a story through each unique bag. Taking around 20 days to complete, creativity and wisdom are demonstrated in the colours, patterns and shapes of each finished product. The mother shares her techniques with her daughters and they become responsible for keeping the tradition alive.
Wayuu legend explains how the Wayuu tradition of weaving became so important to the culture. A mythical spider called “Wale’kerü” taught the women how to weave and passed on the art of telling a story through thread, colours and patterns. The Wayuu tribe believe that everything on earth is connected and has a soul.
Women now learn to weave as part of their rite of passage to womanhood. After one year in isolation, the girl is taught the ways of life as a woman within the Wayuu tribe by an elder. Alongside keeping tradition alive and nurturing a strong family, weaving is crucial to the success she will have in womanhood. The ability and skill of a weaver correlates with her prestige and status within the tribe.
Although they are the largest ethnic group in Colombia, they live in the forgotten region of the country. 250,000 people are divided into around 20 ethnic clans and some report that 34 different languages are spoken among the ethnic groups.
Wayuu bags and accessories from Colombia are created with rich and traditional designs called kaanás (the art of weaving drawings). The female weaver tells a story through each unique product. Taking around 20 days to complete, creativity and wisdom are demonstrated in the colours, patterns and shapes of each finished product. The mother shares her techniques with her daughters and they become responsible for keeping the Wayuu tradition alive.