During winter vacations in July and August of 2015, members of the CTTC Education Department traveled to the communities to give a day-long class about the ancient textiles of Peru to the young weavers. Although they are the inheritors of this tradition and weave techniques and designs that have been passed down from the first peoples of Peru, they are never taught about this in school.
Beginning with the very first textiles made of plant fibers, and moving through the Chavín, Paracas, Nazca, Chimú, Chancay and Inca cultures, the class explained to the children about the origins of their traditions. They learned about what fibers ancient cultures used, and what types of dyes. They learned about the unique weaving and dyeing techniques that the Chavín, Paracas and Nazca invented, and they saw how the designs they weave today come almost directly from the Chimú and Chancay. The children experimented with Incan clothing and learned how their own traditional dress comes from a mix of Incan aesthetics and colonial Spanish fashion.
The best part of the class, however, were the hands-on activities. The young people were thrilled to learn how to weave an ancient Chancay design, and didn’t want to stop weaving to come eat lunch. They also learned the very basics of a Nazca dyeing technique that is well known to most grade-school children around the world: tie-dyeing. Each young weaver got to create their own tie-dye square similar to a section in an ancient Nazca-Wari textile. At the end of the class, the young weavers used what they had learned about Incan clothing and their imaginations to dress two life-sized paper dolls.
It is hard squashing over 10,000 years of textile history into just one day, and the class didn’t even touch upon the Tiahuanaco or Wari cultures let alone the many other cultures of ancient Peru. It was just enough to give the children a taste of their ancestors’ achievements in the textile arts and leave them craving more.