What is a Wayuu Mochila?A mochila is a handcrafted or woven satchel to be worn crossbody over the shoulder. These bags are woven by the women of the Wayuu Indian Tribe, an autonomous indigenous peoples living on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. By wearing a Wayuu Mochila, one supports a traditional form of folk and textile art through a unique and stylistic fashion statement. Intertwining culture and fashion together in this way is what sets Wayuu mochilas apart from all the rest.
Who are the Wayuu’s?
The Wayuu are a fiercely independent peoples inhabiting the autonomous desert region of La Guajira, Colombia. Their settlements consist of several houses clustered together. They refer to themselves simply as Wayuu, and do not acknowledge the term “Indian.” The importance of women is encouraged largely in Wayuu culture. Strong emphasis is placed upon wisdom and maturity among the Wayuu women. A young woman is taught traditionally female roles in Wayuu society, such as sewing, weaving, and cooking.
Who makes Mochilas? Why are they so different? And the weaving thereof…
Wayuu indigenous people do, specifically speaking, the women. Disciplined and hardworking, the wise elder women instill traditional values of Wayuu culture in the younger women. Weaving is at the center of their existence in practical, cultural and spiritual terms.
Originally weaving for their own utility, the Wayuu discovered a market interested in their artisanal crafts. While the economic aspect is vital to the Wayuu community, there is no sacrifice of the artistic for the sake of commerce.
Design motifs deeply symbolic to the Wayuu tribe are utilized in weaving, imbued with a playful and ever changing array of colors. Kanas, the word for patterns in Wayuu language, portray values and beliefs sacred to the Wayuu culture. By incorporating these images into their work, a traditional way of life is depicted and honored. Great importance is given to each design detail and its execution. While each piece represents the continuous preservation of ethnic heritage, a constant stream of evolution occurs as weavers skillfully manipulate old forms and motifs, changing scale and composition, breathing new life into their work. Here the result is no two bags are alike.
We buy them directly from the women who make them. Not only does this interaction result in a direct financial benefit to the makers, it allows for an exchange of creative ideas and market information, thus empowering themselves to explore design innovations. In the end it also enables us to offer this textile form at favorable prices to our enthusiastic market.