When I was working on Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands back in 2007, author Nilda Callañaupa asked, at the last minute, if we could include a painting done by her brother. Well, the book was all photography and line art, and it was hard for me to imagine how it was a good idea to suddenly stick in acrylic on canvas, by a relative no less. Until I saw the painting.
It was a remarkable and striking interpretation of what weaving means in the inner creative life of an Andean woman. The book’s subtitle is Dreaming Patterns, Weaving Memories, and that’s not just sentimental verbiage. It reflects how deeply integrated a weaver’s work is with her feelings and life experiences. And the painting expresses this mystical relationship vividly.
And what about this brother? Angel Callañaupa Alvarez grew up, like his sister, in a traditional Quechua home in a village near Cusco. The clear expectation was that he would be a farmer, like his father and older brother. To his parents’ credit, he was given the latitude to follow his inner urges. How he came by the ability to portray Andean life so accurately and imaginatively with paint and brush is a mystery. Without formal training—but with keen powers of observation and intuition—Angel has produced hundreds of original works, each one an eye-stopper.
You will have an opportunity to enjoy a great many of these in an upcoming book of traditional folk tales, retold and reimagined by Elizabeth Van Buskirk and illustrated by Angel. But more about that later.
Back to the original painting: When readers saw it, they wanted it! They wanted to hang it on their studio wall. They wanted it big. It cried out to be a poster, but I never got around to making that happen. I think it’s time. There are so many choices, though, so I’m asking you to help me out here. The differences between these two are subtle. If you were going to choose one for yourself, which would it be?