PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID PRINCE
The handicrafts markets of Cusco, Peru, overflow with colorful weavings by artisans from the Quechua community, the descendants of the Incas. These intricate textiles originated thousands of years ago, but in the mid-20th century there was a decline in traditional methods. Cheap imported synthetic yarn began to replace alpaca, sheep, and llama wool, while chemical dyes were substituted for labor-intensive natural dyes made from Andean plants, insects, and minerals. Fearing that the art form and its complex patterns would be lost to history, master Quechua weaver Nilda Callañaupa helped establish the nonprofit Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco.
“The CTTC fulfilled the dream of reviving traditional textile practices and of keeping our culture alive,” Callañaupa says. “The work is like weaving your life—what is happening in your life now, then memories.”
Thanks to the work of the CTTC, young artisans from 10 communities in the Cusco region have returned to creating their own natural dyes, spinning yarn, weaving on backstrap looms, and reviving ancient storytelling patterns that depict mountains, rivers, constellations, flowers, and birds.
So do your part and bypass the cheap market offerings and head to the CTCC shop in Cusco for exquisite belts, wall hangings, tote bags, blankets, and more.