I remember impossibly gnarled fingers as the old woman tapped the birds on the weaving and muttered that they symbolized marriage. This was years ago, before I was seriously interested in weaving and the high Andean communities.
And yet her brief explanation in the entirely urban Plaza Tupac Amaru caught my imagination, and I bought the wedding weaving.
Now, I know more about the role that weaving plays in Andean society; that they are an important part of the wedding rituals and ceremonies. It´s not just that the weavings adorn the bridal party, but they come to the union as a form of dowry, or a test of the young woman’s weaving ability.
Recently, three of our younger weavers committed to get married in September, and several months before their weddings they asked to be excused from the activities of the weaving association because they were weaving ponchos for the husbands to be, and llillcas, or mantas for themselves. Their upcoming weddings prompted me to recall the “wedding weaving” I bought so long ago, which still has pride of place in the Apus Peru office.
With the help of volunteer Fani Karaivanova, I set out to find out more about the meaning of the wedding weaving. Once again, we learnt more about the wonderfully fluid Andean cosmovision, that moves and changes and is far from static. Weaving is art, and its meaning is in the eye of the beholder. The traditional meanings of different pallay (the Quechua word for the design found on a weaving) vary from community to community.
Fani learnt that in the community of Karhui (to the south of Cusco) the Q’intikuna Churunakuy (Hummingbirds with beaks joined) symbol in the traditional weavings means that the creator of this weaving keeps feelings of affection and love towards the recipient of the weaving. The Churunakun chiwchikuna (frontally opposed birds) symbolizes affection. Closer to the Threads of Peru communities, in Huilloq the pallay Uminakuj espiritucha shows birds sharing food, symbolizing the way a couple will share food and resources now they are joined as one.
There is also a balance in this weaving, like the traditional Chinese ying and yang between male and female, or light and dark and I recall an excerpt from Andrea Heckman’s illuminating book, Woven Stories: “Weddings symbolically bring together an asymmetrical but balanced union of male and female duality. This union, called yanatin in Quechua symbolically joins the ayllus of the male and the female in reciprocal commitments formed by the joining of man and woman.”
When I look at my own wedding weaving, and interpret the meaning from the point of view of a westerner, for me thedove is a universal symbol of peace, innocence and faith and a pair of doves is the meaning of love. And it is also said that doves mate for life. So when I see two birds joined, I think of marriage.
To conclude, if you are looking for an extremely unique, fair trade, ethical and meaning filled gift as a wedding present, you may consider one of Threads of Peru’s wedding table runners, sure to grace any new home with love and commitment.
– Ariana Svenson, Threads of Peru, Co-Founder