Textiles laden with traditional patterns and symbolic layouts carry rare information among indigenous people of Peru, where writing has never been the prime means of communication among Inca people. As the industrial world impacts even the most remote Andean villages, Nilda Callañaupa, Coordinator of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) special project, is working against time to help communities preserve traditions that might otherwise be lost.

Recently the Center has been working with five communities to build shelters where villagers can gather to weave, plan communal activities, share information, and host CTTC dyeing and other technical workshops. Protected from heavy rain during the prime weaving season, elders now meet and pass on knowledge to younger members of the community. In Chinchero and Patabamba, clubs have been established where children get together with Nilda on a regular basis to learn village patterns their parents may have forgotten.

Nilda has also been building a collection of traditional textiles to be used for consultation by villagers seeking to revive heretofore lost techniques, layouts, and patterns. "Traditional" pieces are often weavings made just twenty or thirty years ago, before great changes occurred. Works purchased from weaving families by merchants and sold in markets and stores in Cusco are rapidly being taken out of Peru. Nilda, however, is in a position to buy weavings from owners who value her preservation work and want to sell to the Center in order to preserve access to their family heirlooms. Her eventual goal is to establish local collections to be kept in each of the villages as well as traveling exhibits within Peru.

In her travels, Nilda sees the finest of textiles; the rarest pieces are often offered to her for sale. Friends of Cultural Survival and the CTTC can give Nilda the opportunity to purchase for the Center a textile or textiles made by virtuoso Andean weavers of yesterday or today. Donated textile(s) will be kept in Peru, added to the Center's growing collection near or within the village of origin.

In the Peruvian Andes Nilda can acquire a fine textile for as little as U.S. $60-$100. To purchase a textile for the Center's collection, any individual may make a donation of this or another amount, made out to Cultural Survival at the address below. For $120 a donor will receive a matted photograph of the newly acquired CTTC collection piece with information about the village where it was made, the name of the maker when known, and the location and circumstances of the purchase. The donor will also become a Friend of the Center and receive La Tejedora, the CTTC quarterly newsletter which provides current information about Andean textiles, the activities of the Center and exhibits in the United States and Peru.

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.

Cultural Survival helps Indigenous Peoples around the world defend their lands, languages, and cultures as they deal with issues like the one you’ve just read about.

Learn More

To read about Cultural Survival’s work around the world, click here. To read more articles on the subject use our Search function and explore 40 years of information on Indigenous issues.

Do More

For ways to take action to help Indigenous communities, click here.

Donate

We take on governments and multinational corporations—and they always have more resources than we do—but with the help of people like you, we do win. Your contribution is crucial to that effort. Click here to do your part.