Peru: A Living Heritage

01aI’ve been fascinated with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival blog and Facebook feeds the last few weeks. Interpret “fascinated” as spending way too much time watching video clips of upcoming events and dreaming myself there! The Festival started this Wednesday on the National Mall in Washington D.C. and runs through the weekend, then it’s on again July1-5.

This year’s Festival is called Peru Pachamama (Pachamama is the Andean earth mother goddess) and the Mall has been transformed into a celebration of all things Peruvian. About 150 participants are on hand to share personal knowledge of Peru’s diverse cultural heritage. If you go, you’ll find heaps of displays, demonstrations, and goodies—everything from stingray jerky, to gourd carving demos, from Marinera courtship dances and traditional drummers to Q’eswachaka bridge builders who are erecting a giant rope bridge across the Mall. And of course, weavers. Weavers we know and love. And a very special artist, too.

A Living Heritage

Cusco, Peru
Nilda Callañaupa Álvarez, founder and director of the Center for Traditional Textiles in Cusco.
Chinchero, Peru
Rosa Quispe a traditional weaver and spinner from Chinchero, Peru, spinning indigo yarn.

Nilda Callañaupa Álvarez, founder and director of the Center for Traditional Textiles in Cusco (CTTC) will be giving presentations about the weaving process and textile design. Nilda, author of Weaving in the Peruvian HighlandsTextile Traditions of Cusco, and Faces of Tradition,  and other weavers from the CTTC will share information about the Center and its work that brings together weavers and their families from several communities. Sharing their knowledge and techniques with the next generation of artisans is an especially important focus. Rosa Quispe, who was one of the elders featured in Faces of Tradition, is participating in the Festival. Considered as one of the best traditionally-dressed women in Chinchero, I imagine Rosa will be one of the best dressed in Washington, D.C., too! Members of the CTTC  have a display of alpaca fibers to educate festival-goers about the significance of alpacas in their lives; they will also perform an alpaca blessing ceremony. At the kids’ event, Wawawasi (a home for children), the young at heart can try weaving on traditional looms with the help of the Cusco weavers.

Andean Artist
Andean Artist Angel Callanaupa Alvarez.

Acclaimed Andean artist Angel Callañaupa Álvarez, also from the Cusco region, will display his vivid paintings of traditional Andean stories that often show the rituals and beliefs about Pachamama. Angel’s stunning paintings illustrated Beyond the Stones of Machu Picchu.FirstHaircutting


And no festival is complete without its market. The Folklife Marketplace located inside the atrium of the National Museum of the American Indian, will feature crafts handmade by Festival participants and other Peruvian master artists. We’re thrilled that organizers chose Angel’s and Nilda’s books, Beyond the Stones, Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands, and Faces of Traditions, to be available for purchase there as well as Angel’s original paintings.


Everyone Come Dance

I’ll leave you with a fun video that was shot during the Smithsonion curators’ research trip throughout Peru. One of their many stops in Peru was to visit the weavers at the CTTC. I bet the video will make you want to dance or maybe spend an afternoon armchair traveling with some great books about cultural and textile traditions of Peru.

—Karen Brock

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