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The Wayuu

The Wayuu

The Wayuu people are from an Indigenous Latin American group of people from La Guajira desert on the border between Venezuela and Colombia.

 The Wayuu live in small settlements called rancherias which consist of five or six houses. Within theses rancherias, the Wayuu people preserve a way of life that has been passed down through generations and remains almost completely untouched by modern culture.

The Wayuu are organized in Matrilineal clans and Wayuu children take on their mother's last names. Within Wayuu communities women are the cultural leaders and the centre of the family unit. 

One of the most traditional activities of Wayuu life is weaving, a tradition that has been passed down through generations and carries the heritage of all the Wayuu ancestors. The joy of weaving for the women of the Wayuu is that it can fit around their other day to day activities, enabling them to create products in order to generate an income while also concentrating on the family. 

Within wayuu communities, respect between women is commanded through the quality and intricacy of the mochila designs. Only the most respected members of the communities are allowed to weave the most complex designs.

Sadly, this traditional way of life and Wayuu traditions are coming under threat. Wayuu communities are resisting mining companies and paramilitaries for the right to remain on their lands and in their rancherias. The communities are facing increased poverty and crisis of cultural identity. According to the Unicef, the Wayuu region is the second poorest place in Latin America after Haiti.

For the Wayuu weaving is used as an art form to express life and convey intelligence, creativity and wisdom. Wayuu daughters are taught how to weave and crochet by their mothers from a young age. 
According to legend the tradition of weaving among the Wayuu comes from ”Wale-Keru” a spider that taught women how to weave their creative drawings into mochilas bags. Every one of these designs is completely unique and tells a story through colours, patterns and shapes - while each bag is different, they all represent the Wayuu culture and way of life. 
While in Northern Colombia TMAC met Paula, the founder of an organisation called Talento Colectivo, a not for profit engineered to create opportunities for Wayuu women. Talento Colectivo was launched in 2001 following extensive research about an appropriate purchase price for a traditional mochila. There are issues throughout Colombia of Wayuu women being taken advantage of and underpaid for their work. Through our collaboration, TMAC and Talento Colectivo are ensuring that the money made from the purchase of these products goes directly to where it should - the highly skilled women behind these one-of-a-kind pieces.
“It is our mission to empower indigenous women through creating fair economic opportunities”

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