Weft and Warp of Modern Conversation
The Asociacion Artesanos Andinos (AAA) celebrates the intrinsic value and artistic identity of indigenous female weavers. Their skill set is pre-Hispanic, a storied conversation entwining generational knowledge and preservation with the more contemporary tale of women joining together in creative spirit. AAA is an economic organization comprised of three centers, employing 180 professional artisans.
Carmen Cardozo, store manager, elaborates. “Each center has a democratically elected leader serving for a term of two years. It is the responsibility of this leader to maintain transparent operational standards, convey communication between centers and to distribute work in a fair and consistent manner. The leaders of the three centers comprise the Board of Directors of AAA, giving the members of the cooperative full control over operational and budgeting happenings.”
This investment in its regional creatives allows AAA to assist women who’ve long faced discrimination despite their skills and talents. The artisans face several barriers- poverty, cold temperatures and barren highlands-but this organization provides resources like production, marketing, and aid in on-the-job training. Weavers and skilled workers then better serve their families and communities, providing sustainable economic growth and active participation in their own personal growth and organization.
The artisans work with regional dyes such as eucalyptus, the dyeing process itself merited by its social importance to the pre-Hispanic peoples. “Colors are determined by the availability of the plant and insect matter found during that particular season, and in this way, works with what Pachamama (Mother Earth) provides,” Cardoza says. The textiles soak in the natural dyes, then rest. Once mordants are used to fix the color to the fabric through a process of boiling and cooling, the product is then washed and hung in the shade to dry.
The weaving itself constitutes social importance in the highland communities. The textiles are elemental in and of themselves, representing centuries of custom, religion, and community standing. Women often begin learning at the hand of their matriarchs between the ages of twelve and fifteen. Fajitas representative of their community are often the first efforts before the young weavers graduate to larger textiles. The members of AAA use either the traditional floor loom, or the horizontal- or pedal- loom.
Cardoza reveals more about the value of weaving in Andean culture, and the organization’s desire to rescue centuries of artisanal skills. “The weaving work, is done by each as a complementary work to their cultivation of the land. The increasing effects of climate change on the highlands of Bolivia, have made the dry season more longer and more extreme than in years past. This change created the need to migrate from the Altiplano to the cities in pursuit of work to compensate for the loss of harvests. With this internal migration has come the rapid loss of an ancient and traditional art form. The work of AAA has enabled the weavers to stay in their home communities and continue the art of weaving, passing the tradition to the next generation in order to preserve the vitality of this art form, and the sense of community.”
Textiles rich with composition and color by AAA will be exhibited for potential buyers at NY NOW’s Artisan Resource August 20-23 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.
For more information, please visit http://arteandino.org.