I was quite delighted while doing some research a few weeks back when I came across The Peruvian non-profit called: Awamaki. Greatly similar to my thesis, this organization enables “impoverished Quechua women weavers to improve their skills and increase their access to market, thereby revitalizing an endangered weaving tradition while affording Quechua women with a reliable source of income.”
Awamaki promotes fair trade when selling these textiles at their volunteer-operated store in Ollantaytambo and all proceeds are given back to the community to benefit their families. In addition, they organize various sustainable tourism programs that encourage outsiders to learn more about the craft through artisanal workshops where individuals can learn to weave and use natural dyes.
The textiles that the Quechua women weave range from a variety of outputs from blankets, garments, hats, belts to sacks and horse blankets. The colors that they use are bright and vibrant through natural dyes that are gathered from plants or by grinding certain insects. Similar to the T’boli, the Quechua women make use of the backstrap loom. However, instead of weaving indoors, these women weave outside and their loom is held firmly though a stake that has been pushed into the ground.
Although traditional in nature and deeply ingrained in their culture, many changes have been affecting the natural method of textile production for the Quechua. The move to synthetic dyes for at least 50 to 100 years has threatened their age-old tradition and knowledge of using natural dyeing methods. Also, the younger generation have chosen to move to cities for a better life, leaving a few younger and willing weavers to entrust the tradition to.
In order to help encourage the production as well as protect their weaving tradition, Awamaki was established to address these issues. According to their website, Awamaki’s goals are to:
- revitalize the endangered weaving tradition by giving market access to rural weavers
- create a place for Andean weaving in a new modernizing economy by marketing textiles to tourists and seeking international avenues of sale
- recuperate and develop further technical knowledge of natural dyes and the weaving process
- improve the well-being of the weavers, their families and their communities
By reading about the organization and the projects they’ve implemented, it has helped me to become more inspired with my thesis. There is a lot to learn from successful organizations such as this that have been established that are helping traditional weaving to continue living in this modern age.
Another point that I also found interesting was the other branch of work at Awamaki Lab which allows a fashion designer to collaborate with the women in order to develop a line of clothing. By fusing tradition with contemporary sensibilities, this helps the textiles become more well-received in our modern times. Read more about Awamaki Lab in my other post here.
To learn more about the organization and help their cause, click here: