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May 02

Reviving a Pre-Columbian Textile Technique

In our ClothRoads May textile calendar, we noted a special exhibit opening today (May 3) at the Museo Inka in Cusco, Peru – Reclaiming Ancient Paracas: The Struggle to Recover a Textile Technique. It’s not often that I write a blog about an exhibit but this one is a bit close to “home” because it’s the weavers from the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC), Peru, who are working to recover cross-stitch looping, a complex three-dimensional embroidery technique that both the Paracas and Nazca used in the borders of their textiles.

We feature CTTC often in blogs and we sell the naturally-dyed, handwoven textiles of these talented weavers in the ClothRoads shop. What makes this exhibit even more special is that last November, during a visit to CTTC, I was able to see the results of this intricate and creative work of the artisans as they set about recovering the complex looping of their predecessors.

A Behind-the-Scenes in Reviving the Paracas and Nazca Looping Technique
During Tinkuy 2017, twenty CTTC weavers participated in a workshop on the Paracas and Nazca looping technique with two professors from Chile, Soledad Hoces de la Guardia and Ana María Rojas. In a scant five months, two weavers who participated in the Tinkuy class taught workshops to a few members from each of the ten communities, who then returned to their communities to teach what they had learned. A competition was set among the communities with categories for adult weavers and young weavers, and the external judging took place last August.

With this competition, CTTC has achieved the revival of yet another pre-Colombian technique. The weavers have learned more about their heritage and have had a direct hand in reviving the work of their ancestors. But now the practice of this technique must continue so that it is not forgotten once more. Moving forward, CTTC hopes that this type of work to revive pre-Colombian techniques instills yet more pride in the weavers for their traditions, heritage and identity. With the special exhibit at Museo Inka, they will see their work alongside some of their ancestors.

Andean Textiles On Exhibit Around the Globe
It’s not apparent why there’s recent interest in museum exhibitions focused on Andean textiles. Of course, we’re particularly taken by them–ClothRoads has noted these and others in its monthly textile calendar. But just in case you have missed those, here’s a quick summary of what’s still showing and one just opening this June:

The Weavers of the Clouds: Textile Arts of Peru exhibit opens at the London Fashion and Textile Museum on June 21. This three-month showing explores the processes and practices of both historic and contemporary Peruvian costume via garments, textiles, photographs, tools, illustrations and paintings dating from pre-Hispanic to present day. Work by contemporary Peruvian fashion designers, photographers, and Peruvian-inspired designs are all included.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington. D.C. is featuring two exhibitions thru August 18: Beyond Knotting: Wari and Inka Tunics and Written in Knots: Undeciphered Accounts of Andean Life. These exhibitions examine the relationship between two components of the Andean woven world, tunics and khipus. Although different in function—tunics were worn as clothing and khipus encoded and transported information—both types of textiles are made of the same materials, produced through many of the same techniques, and tell stories about their owners.

At the University of Manchester, England, you can view Ancient Textiles from the Andes at the Whitworth Gallery until September 15. This exhibit offers a rare opportunity to see ancient Andean textiles (c300BC to c1400AD) from the Whitworth collection alongside textiles from the collector Paul Hughes. As well as celebrating breathtaking achievements in textile technique and design, this exhibit explores the complexities of their transition from local ritual to a wider international stage.

There’s still time to see Super/Natural: Textiles of the Andes at the Art Institute of Chicago on view until June 23. This exhibition features over 60 textiles along with a small selection of ceramics from the museum’s collection that together explore the ways select Andean cultures developed distinct textile technologies and approaches to design. Over the course of millennia, textiles were the primary form of aesthetic expression and communication for the diverse cultures that developed throughout the desert coasts and mountain highlands of the Andean region. Worn as garments, suspended on walls of temples and homes, and used in ritual settings, textiles functioned in multiple contexts, yet, within each culture, the techniques, motifs, and messages remained consistent.

An Organization Devoted to Andean Textiles
Andean Textile Arts is a U.S. non-profit dedicated to supporting the people and communities of the Andes in their efforts to preserve and revitalize their textile traditions.  If you’d like to read more about this important work, subscribe here to receive periodic updates.

Or you can purchase them online in the ClothRoads shop.




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