Palace of the Weaver

Awana Kancha’s living museum of Andean fiber heritage

Awana Kancha’s name means “The Palace of the Weaver” in Quechua. Since 1989 it serves as an atelier, showroom, and museum showcasing textiles made from from four South American camelid fibers, which represent a valuable heritage for Perú and the world. HAND/EYE deputy editor Marcella Echavaria interviews Javier Caparó, one of Awana Kancha’s three brother-founders.

HAND/EYE: Where are the communities you work with located? What are their traditions?

Javier Caparó: We started working with highland communities twenty years ago thanks to many trips we took to areas where camelids lived (and live) and small towns where we found traces of very old traditions. After years of hard work, we understood that our brothers from the Peruvian Andes had a lot to teach us in how they co-existed with nature and other cultures.

Currently we work in the area of Mapacho, south of Cusco  in the highlands of Valle Sagrado, and in the slopes around Rio Ccahuay.

We encourage the production of handmade textiles using ancestral techniques and local iconographies. We promote these traditions as an option for a sustainable and dignified lifestyle.  We believe that people should be able to make a living by continuing the traditions of their ancestors.

H/E: How does Awana Kancha work towards preserving traditions?

JC: We have done years of research on ancient texts, textiles and other remnants.  We also led many focus groups in remote villages where the elders told many stories and showed museum quality pieces they had treasured forever.

H/E: What are the traditions that Awana Kancha has helped preserve?

JC: We have focused on ancestral weaving techniques using homemade tools and local products to achieve unique colors and old ways of making (and wearing) clothing.

H/E: What makes the work of Awana Kancha unique?

JC:  We show the world that unique high quality textiles can continue. We work with the new generations to show them a viable option through their own history and the work of their own hands. We recently embarked on a project of reproducing ancient textiles from Pre-Inca times. This legacy belongs to Perú and to the world.

H/E: What are the materials used?

JC: we use the finest alpaca and llama fibers, 100 percent vegetable and mineral dyes, and natural processes to achieve long lasting textiles. We use clay pots for dying, fermented urine and leaves, fruits and seeds from Chillca, Ccolle Ccolle, Tayanka and Chapi plants.  To make sure these plants are not over used, we have designed local green houses.  We have in our long-term plan the creation of a genetic bank to make sure the species will not disappear.

H/E: Please tell us about the museum.

JC: Awana Kancha is called a living museum in the Andes.  We present the four species of camelids (alpaca, llama, vicuña and guanaco) in one place; we show all the different processes to transform the fibers, all the weaving and dying techniques.  All of this is presented by authentic weavers from villages around Cusco who proudly show visitors their art and tradition.

We also have acquired over the years a large collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts that have been catalogued and registered by the Ministry of Culture. The collection includes 4000 ceramics, metals, and textiles pieces.

H/E: How do you achieve a balance between modernity and antiquity? Tradition and future?

JC: If we look at the sophistication of ancient textile traditions, we can say that we have recovered only five percent. Our goal is to continue with our efforts to preserve the legacies of Paracas, Nazca, Wari and Chancay, and in doing so, provide viable alternatives for people to remain in their villages and not migrate to the cities.

For more information about Awana Kancha, go to www.awanakancha.com or their beautiful facility in Cusco, Peru.

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