Our Commitment to the Wayuu and You
Who Are The Wayuu?
The Wayuu are an indigenous people who inhabit the arid Guajira Peninsula which is located on the Colombia-Venezuela border beside the Caribbean Sea.
Wayuu Culture and the Role of Women
Women are the political, religious, family, medical and cultural leaders of their people. Despite continual changes and pressures from the world around them the Wayuu have managed to maintain their indigenous language, beliefs and unlike most other nations a strong matriarchal culture. Mothers are responsible for ensuring the Wayuu culture and beliefs are passed onto their children and almost uniquely the children bear only their mother’s last name.
Wayuu Weaving and its Importance to Culture
Weaving is a practice that is passed on from one generation to the next. The Wayuu method of weaving is a complex art form done entirely by hand. Knowing how to weave is a symbol of creativity, intelligence and wisdom. The young women learn how to weave during puberty when they are separated from the males of their clan. For anywhere from 2 months to 2 years they live solely with their female relatives and are taught all the duties and behaviour of a Wayuu woman. Possibly the most important being the art of weaving.
Weaving, though, to the Wayuu is more than art. It is a deeply engrained part of their culture. It is a thread that unites the entire nation of people. Wayuu use weaving as a method of storytelling, much like the paintings and music of Australian Aborigines. The different patterns and knots are used to represent myths, legends, dreams and customs of the Wayuu people. Each woven item literally tells a story of their daily lives.
Wayuu Mochilas (Bags)
Wayuu weave many things, Hammocks, Mats, Clothes, Shoes but the most important and famous item are the bags. Known as Mochilas the bags are generally used to carry food, water and even babies. Each bag is made by only one woman and her own imagination. Every bag is a unique piece of art and is an artistic representation of the woman who made it. Literally every design is ‘one of a kind’. Weaving these bags is painstaking work. Depending on size and complexity of design it takes a woman between 10 - 20 eight hour days to complete just one bag. Some of the major sources of inspiration for both design and colour for the bags come from the natural environment such as patterns of wind on the desert sand, visions of birds of prey flying high above the land, the hot equatorial sun and cactus flowers.