The Wayuus inhabit the northern peninsula of Colombia, La Guajira, facing the caribean ocean and bordering Venezuela. The community has adapted to harsh and dry desertic conditions of the region.
Within the community, men devote their time to sheep and goat breeding , corn planting and the assembly of traditional musical instruments such as wooden drums . Women on the other hand, occupy themselves to chinchorros(hammocks) , shoulder bags and colorfull cloth weaving.
Wayuu Mochilas are the highest exponent of wayuu weaving.They are easily recognisable by their colors and designs. Mochilas are woven in crochet, or with a weaving hook. Manufactuing process can take up to 20 days.
Color diversity use on their handcrafted items, can be accountable for the introduction of acrilical thread by the spanish , during the colonial period.
Weaving for the Wayuu People, more than a cultural practice and ancestral heritage is a way to conceive and express life such as they feel and desire it.
The story tells that spider Wale Keru was the first that taught the wayuu women to weave. Wale Keru is a weaving spider that , always had chinchorros and straps done before dawn; and always had her designs ready for spring.
The Wayuus then asked her; to tell them how did she manage to do it. Wale Keru then told them, that she first taught a single women. This women then told that the spider would teach her, only if she received a donkey or a goat in exchange for her teachings. The Wayuus then offered her their garments and necklaces.
The story also tells that Wale Keru fell in love with a man, she then fled with him, and then when united with his family,her mother in law told her: "Take this material for you to weave straps".Wale Keru then ate all of the offered cotton. Soon after, a twisted stream of cotton threads was expelled from her mouth.
Wale Keru asked the Wayuu women to remain in their shelters. She asked them to remain vigilant and avoid distractions, as she wouldnt be teaching permanently.
The wayuu people weave wild cotton,maguey fibres ,aipis fibres and other natural fibres of the region. They twist leather goat or cow leather straps to manufacture threads. They twist cotton and industrial wool for high quality threads; aswell as worn-out thread that they re-use for second-hand tissues.
The main types of wayuu mochilas depend on their size,their shape ,their colors or their utility.
The susuchon or Woot is a little mochila that men usually carry on either side of the strap; forming part of the guayuco(traditional male clothing garment). This mochila is 12-15 cm of heigh, by 10-15 wide.
The Traditional Susu, is a medium sized mochila that Wayus carry on a daily basis. In it they carry personal use items,work items,money or weaved tissues. They are 20-30cm wide by 35cm tall. They are woven in fine cotton thread with various gometrical patterns.
The Susuainiakajatu is a very big bag that serves women to carry chinchorros(hammocks),clothing and other personal use items when travelling. It is usually caried on the head, due to its weight.
The Crochet Susu are daily use mochilas. They dont have a base but only consist of a woven cilinder body, closed at the base and open at the upper side. It is woven in fine cotton, and includes all tipes of geometrical patterns.
The Kapatera is a very big bag , used by men to carry clothing and chinchorros when travelling. The bags shape is a woven cilinder with two openings, and two large closing laces.
The Piula or Kattowi mochilas are net alike mochilas used to carry empty fruit shells or to store food or tools. They are woven with goat leather or in fique fibre. Their sizes vary from large narrow nets, woven by hand to small narrow nets, woven by straight needle technique.
The Susu Uttiakajamatu is a mochila that can be found in different sizes. It is commonly used by Wayuu women to carry domestical use items. The big ones are used to carry wood,salt and heavy loads. Medium and small ones are used to store and hang food and tools. They are woven in apis or fique fibre.
The Wayuu Tissue is rich in traditional designs called Kaanas(the art of weaving design) This ancestral technique goes back to the pre-columbian period and is embeded in several traditional woven items.
The traditional motifs of kanaas are the most authentic expression of the way Wayuus interpret elements of their material world and daily life. Kanaas are used to create stilized figures of great simbolism; amongs them , the major higlights are tortoise shells,donkeys genitals and star constellations.
This kanaas are geometrical compositions that repeat themselves along the tissues repertoire ; each one receives a name that expresses its meaning such as:
Pulikerüüya, The donkeys vulva
Molokonoutaya, The morrocoy´s shell
Pasatalo’ouya, the cows guts
Kuliichiya, as the tissues that form shelter's beams
Siwottouya, as the horses paw-step
Marüliunaya, as the engraving of the Totumo
Jalianaya, The mother of Kanaas
Pa’ralouas, one that is on top of each other
Kalepsü, As the wooden hook used to hang items from the roof
Antajirasü, patterns that intertwine
Jime’uya, eye of a fish