According to an old Wayúu legend, the spider taught Wayúu women artisans how to weave stories to remember them and to hand down to their children. Attached to the legend there’s a saying among Wayúu women, “The woman who doesn’t know how to weave is no real woman.”
Real women weave and the results are extraordinary. Everyday items like blankets, mochila bags, and hammocks dazzle the eyes with colors and intricate motifs that are inspired by the hues, shapes and harmony of the desert. The Wayúu’s palette and sense of design is organic. It’s based on the play of light during the seasons; the explosion of color in sunrises and sunsets; geometric patterns—each with a sacred meaning—found in nature and in their daily surroundings.
“Wayúu textile traditions are handed down from the older generation down to the younger generation—typically from grandmothers to their granddaughters,” said Juanita Garcia, Business Development and Social Impact Assessor of Jalianaya Foundation. Yet, like many indigenous cultures, the young are seduced with the lure of modernization and better paying jobs in towns and cities.
In 2000, the Jalianaya Foundation came to life as the initiative of a group of Wayúu artisans to improve their quality of life for themselves and their families. The foundation works with weavers in 87 communities within the rural municipality of Manure y Uribia in Guajira, Colombia. The mission is to encourage the Wayúu people to keep their traditions alive. “Jalianaya works with more than 200 women in remote rural communities who live in dire conditions. Programs include instruction in weaving, supplying the women with yarn and buying the finished product. The program has helped to economically empower them to lead themselves and their families out of poverty,” said Garcia.
Jalianaya plans for the future are ambitious. The foundation wants to reach 2,000 Wayúu families in the region and expand their services to include more than just training and employment. Programs would include the basics of nutrition and wellness, provide literacy classes, help communities build and maintain infrastructures for clean and drinkable water. “In five years time, we envision to be part of a business world where enterprises empower the ethical labor behind the brand.”
Jalianaya will exhibit a number handwoven mochila bags, bracelets and hammocks at Artisan Resource ® a section of New York NOW® from August 16-19, at Pier 94 in Manhattan. For more in information, please visit www.jalianaya.com.