All About Aboriginal Handmade Apparel Accessories

pastel Wayuu mochila
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Wayuu Artisanas Mariangelica Ortiz & Carmen
Arhuaco Indian artisanas Ana Ilba Torres & Company

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All About Aboriginal Handmade Apparel Accessories

The Wayuu Mochila

by Aboriginal Arts, LLC on 08/27/13


Latin American Aboriginal culture is endangered, as many Indian youths are enticed to join modern technological society. Aborigine women lead the efforts to preserve their ancestral culture.

The Roles of Women in Aborigine Families

Wayuu Aborigine women lead their families and communities. They are the family providers, and they lead the efforts to preserve Wayuu Indian culture. Daily, they struggle to support the children of their communities, while serving initiatives to preserve ethnic customs of their culture.

With technological advancements, such as the Internet and television, influences of other, supposedly more advanced societies, indigenous cultures are met by potentially crippling challenges to their ancient beliefs and customs, their traditional, artisanship centered way of life. The hardships of poverty add to the allure, the seducing influence, of foreign cultures, which reach Aboriginal youth via the Internet and television.

Follow this link to the native land of the Wayuu Aborigines

Follow this link to look inside a Wayuu home and village, and hear Wayuu artisana Cenida discuss, in her native tongue, the Chinchorro, a very special hammock.

Wayuu Women and Aboriginal Arts, LLC Promote Ancestral Wayuu Culture

The women of Aboriginal communities are dedicated to promoting their ancestral culture by offering, among other things, authentic Wayuu mochilas, shoulder bags, which they weave by hand in the traditional way passed down through generations. Into each mochila is woven traditional Wayuu symbols, geometric figures, which graphically record their ancestral knowledge of the sun, the stars, the seashore, and many other things in nature.

Contrary to the tide of seducing influences upon Aborigine youths, the efforts of Aboriginal Arts, LLC promote the economies of genuine Aboriginal communities in Latin America, with special outreaches to the Wayuu Indian settlements of present-day Colombia's La Guajira Peninsula.

Wayuu Mochilas Come in Three Color Schemes

A mochila is a standard accessory in Latin America.  Ladies usually like the soft colors of the pastel scheme or the vivid colors of the vivo scheme.  Gentleman usually carry a mochila in the tierra color scheme, for its earthy shades. 
Wayuu mochila in the Pastel color scheme

Wayuu mochila, in the "Vivo" (Bright/Lively) color scheme

Wayuu mochila in the Tierra (Earthy) color scheme

See Wayuu artisana Carmen weave a mochila

Wayuu Handmade Bracelets

Bracelets are another woven product of the Wayuu People.  Like Wayuu mochilas, Wayuu bracelets are woven from pure cotton yarn, and they bear symbolic geometric figures.  Wayuu cuff bracelets are approximately two inches wide, and Wayuu bracelets are approximately one-inch wide.

Detriments to Aborigine Culture and Artisanship

Today, Wayuu women are struggling to save their ancestral culture. They struggle against the conventions of a consumer society, mass production, the Internet and television, which influence Aboriginal youth to leave their communities and forget their ancestral heritage.

Furthermore, Wayuu mochilas and other handicrafts are being counterfeited by profiteers who want to exploit the reputation for quality of Wayuu products. They implement techniques of mass production, such as advanced machinery and cheap labor, to flood the market with shoddy merchandise in an effort to supplant genuine Wayuu products.

How You Can Support the Survival of Wayuu Artisanship

The best way to support Aboriginal women is to buy their genuine products, while rejecting the imitations of unscrupulous traders.

Aboriginal Arts LLC buys and sells only genuine Wayuu products that are handmade by Wayuu artisans of La Guajira, Colombia. In this way, Aboriginal Arts, LLC supports the preservation of Aboriginal culture by providing income to Wayuu artisans for their daily sustenance, so that they may continue in the fight to preserve their culture.

If you want to support Wayuu Aboriginal communities, you may shop for genuine Wayuu mochilas, bracelets and cuff bracelets at Aboriginal Arts, LLC.

Manufacturing and Tinting Caña Flecha Fiber Strips for Handmade Apparel Accessories

by Aboriginal Arts, LLC on 03/22/13

The Zenú Indian artisan’s process of manufacturing and tinting the fiber strips that are used to make the braids which constitute caña flecha apparel accessories is described in this article.  

Cut:  This step involves harvesting the lower leaves of the caña flecha plant. The plants must grow for two years from the time the crop is established until their lower leaves are ready for harvest.

Winnowing:  In this step, the body of the leaves is cut away from their central veins, which are used to make the material for braids.

Scraping:  This step involves using a knife to remove non-fibrous, green plant material from the surfaces of the central veins of the leaves.

Division:  In this step, the scraped central veins of the leaves are divided into fiber strips.  The width of the individual strips into which the central vein is divided depends upon the level of quality of the braids that are to be produced. 

The quality level of braids varies according to the number of laps of fiber strips that they contain.  A single lap of two fiber strips is called a “foot.”  Caña flecha braids are about the same width, regardless of the number of “feet” they contain.  Therefore, the width of individual fiber strips necessarily varies inversely with the number of “feet” in a braid.  In other words, the greater the number of “feet” used to make a braid, the narrower individual fiber strips must be.  Because braids have the same width, regardless of the number of “feet” they contain, a braid can contain many little “feet,” or not so many big “feet.” 

Typically, the numbers of laps of fibers, the numbers of “feet,” that are used to make braids are, in the order of quality from low to high, 7, 9, 15, 19, and 21.  Braids that incorporate relatively high numbers of laps of narrow fiber strips are suppler than braids of fewer laps of wider fiber strips.  For example, a purse made of 21-lap caña flecha braids is much suppler and more resilient than one made of 15-lap braids.  A very graphic example of this is seen in the sombrero vueltiao: one that is made of 21-lap braids can be rolled up, folded in thirds, and carried in a pocket without damaging it.  However a sombrero vueltiao made of 15-lap braids would become permanently creased if it were likewise folded.  At the lower end of the spectrum of numbers of “feet,” braids of only 9 laps of fiber strips, called "ribetes,"are used as trims for certain garments or accessories, because, for this application, supple consistency is not important.

The following video was made in a Zenú Indian village just outside the town of Tuchín, which is in the State of Córdoba, Colombia, South America.  Tuchín is considered to be the mecca of caña flecha craftsmanship.  The aforementioned steps of Winnowing, Scraping and Division are demonstrated in this video.

Tinting:  The fiber dying process varies according to the color that is desired. 

To obtain black colored fiber strips

First, plantain peelings are cooked in mud to color it black.  Caña flecha fiber strips are then submerged in this mud and allowed to soak in it overnight.  The submerged fiber strips are then grasped with one hand and lifted out of the mud to a position directly over its container.  From this position, the fiber strips are drawn through the closed hand, using the other hand, so as to strip the mud off of them. Next, the color is fixed, (so that it does not fade), by cooking the fiber strips in water with bija leaves for 4 hours, while periodically turning the mixture. 

To obtain white colored fiber strips

First, the lightest colored fiber strips are selected.  Next, stalks of sour cane, caña agria, are peeled with a knife to remove their green exteriors.  The inner stalk material so obtained is then crushed, submerged in water, and squeezed by hand to facilitate the extraction of its essence into the water.  Next, the fiber strips are submerged in the water, together with the crushed caña agria.  This mixture is cooked for 30 minutes, while stirring it.  The fiber is then removed from the mixture and allowed to drain for half an hour.  Next, the fiber is dried in direct sunlight.  Finally, it is left outdoors overnight, whereby contact with dew completes this tinting process.

To obtain red colored fiber strips

Fiber strips are cooked in water with bija leaves for two hours, and then allowed to drain.  Drying the fiber strips in the shade completes this tinting process.

Other colors that are used to tint caña flecha fiber strips include several shades of green and red; a variety of earthy shades; mandarin orange; orange; gray; and yellow.  An upcoming article documents the plants and processes used for tinting caña flecha fiber strips with each of these colors.

Braiding:  Braiding is undertaken in accordance with the number of laps of fiber strips in the braid, the number of “feet,” that is, and according to the particular pinta that is being crafted.  Pintas are graphic images that represent objects and experiences from everyday life, such as animals; plants; stars; types of music and dance; religious beliefs; and customsPintas are records, a type of mnemonic device. Each pinta is produced by braiding contrasting colors of caña flecha fiber strips according to a unique pattern.

Braiding time varies directly with the number of laps of fiber strips, the number of “feet,” incorporated in the braid; the greater the number of "feet" in a braid, the longer it takes to make.  On average, it takes an hour to braid a one meter length of 15-lap material.  The following video from Tuchín, Colombia, the mecca of caña flecha craftsmanship, shows a 15-lap braid under construction.