A Once in a Lifetime Experience

Kate with Demesia and Augustin

BBC presenter Kate Humble with Demesia and Augustin

Calling this a once in a lifetime experience is probably understating it.

In January of this year, Threads of Peru was offered the unique opportunity to collaborate on a film being produced for the BBC, a film that would showcase the Andean lifestyle to reveal the full glory of its vast beauty and uncompromising harshness.

For five days, the crew from Indus Films, including BBC presenter Kate Humble, myself and a small team of Apus Peru staff braved the cold, rain and occasional snow to catch a real glimpse of what life was like for the alpaca herders in Chaullaqocha, one of Threads of Peru’s partner weaving communities. We were hosted by weavers Demesia Sinchi Echame and her mother-in-law Alejandrina Puma Churata while they and their families opened up their lives to us.

Kate with Demesia and two of her children, Luz Brenda and Maria Milagros

Kate with Demesia and two of her children, Luz Brenda and Maria Milagros

Weaving in Chaullaqocha

Weaving in Chaullaqocha

The film in question is a three-part series entitled “Wild Shepherdess” and examines the state of traditional herding practises throughout the world. Part 1 features one of the most traditional herding communities in the world in a remote corner of Afghanistan; Part 2 is centred on Peru, a country in transition yet steeped in history, where alpaca herding has been practised for centuries. The series culminates in Australia in Part 3 where modern sheep herding is practised with state-of-the-art technology and cutting edge science.

Chaullaqocha opens Part 2, arguably the more complex of the three Parts. The tension of competing worlds is palpable as Alejandrina, Demesia, her husband Augustín and his brother Tomás discuss in turns the hardships they face trying to raise their families on subsistence farming in Chaullaqocha and their hopes for a better future for their children. But there hangs in the air a wistfulness for traditions and a way of life in danger of being lost.

Demesia's daughter, Luz Brenda, carrying her brother Huayna Isaiah

Demesia’s daughter, Luz Brenda, carrying her brother Huayna Isaiah

The struggle of these families to balance traditional culture with the need to adapt to a changing economic picture is a metaphor for the entire country. Peru has one of the fastest growing economies in South America and is seen as a country ripe for investment, and poverty rates have been dropping in recent years. But for a country built on the legacy of a great empire – the mystery of which still defines the country in most people’s minds and sustains an $2.2 million tourism industry – how do you reconcile such pervasive cultural roots with newly emerging economic systems, infrastructure and global influences?

This dynamic balance is at the heart of what Threads of Peru is trying to achieve, and it is poignantly captured in Wild Shepherdess.

Kate before a herd of alpacas in Chaullaqocha

Kate before a herd of alpacas in Chaullaqocha

Wild Shepherdess with Kate Humble, Episode 2, Peru aired on BBC on June 28th 2013; check for repeat airings on your local networks or YouTube.

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Announcing the Launch of Threads of Peru’s 2013 Wholesale Catalogue!

Are you a retailer who is interested in high quality hand-made goods, traditional culture, natural materials and the principles of fair trade? Are you a business-person looking to invest in some traditional artwork for corporate headquarters, or a hotel owner looking for new, ethical and culturally-inspired decoration ideas?

If so, you might be interested to browse through our freshly minted wholesale catalogue!

Threads of Peru Product Shoot

This catalogue features some of our finest and most highly sought items, a refined selection curated from the regular collection of textiles featured on our website and online shops.

ponchos

Here at Threads of Peru, we aim to offer a more authentic and sustainable view of fashion, one that interconnects textiles, people, and the world, according to the principles of the worldwide Slow Fashion movement.

Slow Fashion is about providing a more sustainable future for the textile and clothing sector, linking fashion with awareness and responsibility, shifting value away from consumption to a conscious valuation of quality and durability in the products you buy and use.

Weaver hand weavers

Each Threads of Peru textile is carefully woven one at a time according to centuries of tradition. Our products foster ecological and cultural integrity, as we focus on producing unique pieces from 100% natural materials.

Contact us today for your very own copy of Threads of Peru’s 2013 Wholesale Catalogue!

 

Cusco Snapshots: Dancing in the Plaza

I recently posted a photo on our Facebook and Twitter pages of a man dancing in Cusco’s main plaza, the Plaza de Armas. In the photo the man is alone but in reality he was surrounded by scores of other dancers from all over the region. This week I’m going to post a few more of the photos to give a better picture of the diverse and colorful costumes that flooded the plaza just before Holy Week kicked off. Enjoy. (Click images to enlarge)

A dancer wears a traditional hat often found in Cusco and surrounding communities like Oropesa and Chincheros

Dancers from Canas perform "Carnaval de Canas."

This dance is called "Huallatas" a quechan word that means "goose," like the goose feathers the dancers wear in their hats

The top of a man's hat whips around during a dance called "Carnaval de Canchis"

Elaborate costumes are used during performances of Caporales, a type of dance that originated in Bolivia.

Looking to visit Peru this year?

Threads of Peru has been working with its supporter, the trekking company Apus Peru for four years now – $15.00 of each Apus Peru tour goes directly to Threads of Peru and from us it goes towards helping the women in the communities.

For this reason we always encourage people that are planning a trip to Peru to take a look at the Apus website –http://www.apus-peru.com/especially since they are now offering tours with 10% going towards Threads of Peru!

Here’s what our friends at Apus had to say:

New Philanthropic Tours to support Threads of Peru work!

Its both excting and challenging to create a good itinerary for clients.

Apus Peru try to do it every day for their clients, as we design holidays that really become “trips of a lifetime” by working with people and finding out what they are interested in.

Now, Apus Peru have designed some itineraries that are genuinely unique and bring out the best in Peru so that visitors can see a different side of Peru – while contributing to a very worthwhile cause – Threads of Peru.

If you take these tours, you will directly support the people of the Andes! 10% of your overall tour price is donated to Threads of Peru.

These new Philanthropic tours include-

Andean Culture tour.  (14 days), this tour takes you from Lima to Lake Titicaca, and then onto Cusco where you will have the chance to visit remote villages (either by trekking or transport, depending on your fitness) where Threads of Peru works.  These tours have been created so that you can visit one of the many unique festivals that occur in Cusco, and are often not known about by the vast majority of visitors.  This tour provides a fascinating insight into the culture of the Andes.

For more info – http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/andean_culture_tour.html

Hiking through the Andes

Peru Family Adventure (11 days) The name says it all – with this tour, families can take part in a whole range of adventures together, from easy downhill mountain biking, getting to know llamas and alpacas,  to seeing where honey comes from, as well as learning more about how children in another part of the world live.   While a visit to Machu Picchu is a highlight, kids often love the jungle excursions in the Amazon where they can see many beautiful native animals.

For more info – http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/peru_family_adventure.html

A biker on the trail

Adrenalin & Adventure in Peru (12 days).  This is a tour for those who LOVE challenging themselves – and what better place to do it, than in Peru?  In a short 12 day trip you can paraglide, surf, raft, hike, ride, climb, rappel, and zipline!!!   It’s a tour for those who don’t necessarily have experience, but like to learn something new, all the while surrounded by the amazing culture of the Andes.

For more info – http://www.apus-peru.com/tours/adventure_adrenalin_tour.html

Paragliding into the sunset

We hope to see you soon!

Interview with Adam Foster Collins – a founder of Threads of Peru

1) What has been your most culture shocking moment whilst in the communities?

The most culture-shocking moment for me was when we were received in Rumira Sondormayo in the cold rain with a welcome dinner which consisted of a plastic laundry basket filled with about 20 types of potato; boiled and whole, accompanied with one hard-boiled egg; warm and still in the shell. As a special treat, we were also offered a dish of salt to add to the food. So there we all were, cold and wet. Eleven of us sat huddled in the darkened interior of a mud brick hut munching on the potatoes and eggs. And honestly, I have to admit, it was one of the greatest tasting and most memorable meals of my life.

A picture of Adam at Machu Picchu


2) What inspires you to work for Threads of Peru?

As a designer, I’m inspired by the idea that design thinking can be applied to any set of problems to the benefit of the situation – not only that, it MUST be applied. Even if the people involved are not “designers” as a profession. Design is the key to human beings figuring out how to move from a situation that they’re not satisfied with, to one that does satisfy them. Threads of Peru requires that we think about everything from human dynamics, to business management, to marketing and graphic design. The range of issues and the challenges they present – all aimed at the preservation and promotion of indigenous culture in Peru – is what I find so interesting.

3) What’s your favourite Peruvian food?

I really enjoy the fresh salsa that often accompanies meals in Peru. I also really love coca tea with mint.

4) And your least favourite Peruvian food (and why?)


Not so much a food, but a drink – coffee. It’s very difficult to find coffee prepared the way I am accustomed to (and addicted to) at home.

5) In your opinion where is the best spot in Cusco for visiting?


The restaurants and Churches surrounding the Plaza de Armas (Central Square) in Cusco are nice to visit, and I love the square at night; the way the city lights of the residential area are visible on the mountainsides above – like stars. Also the San Blas area, which is within walking distance of the Plaza, is full of interesting shops and local art and crafts.

The Plaza at night, lit up with the Christmas decorations!

6) Describe the happiest/most touching moment you have experienced in the communities?

For me, it was the first time we went to the communities, which the culmination of a design class project in Canada. Eleven students made the journey, and to finally find ourselves there with the weavers in the mountains for the first time was an experience I’ll never forget. It was snowing heavily for a while, and it was beautiful.

7) Your strangest/funniest moment from living in Peru?


Trying really hard to communicate in Spanish to an elderly woman at the market about spices I was looking for, and having her suddenly get exasperated with me and huff, “No Ingles! No entiendo!” (Until then, I thought I was doing pretty well…)

8) Biggest achievement so far?


For me, it has been to see the whole structure set up; from weaving workshops and buying in the communities, to the online store and the vast internet information site,  shipping and positive customer feedback from all over the world. It has required an incredible amount of work and creative energy to set up all of this infrastructure, and to see the structure finally functioning end-to-end is a great achievement for so few people to have built.

9) Finally, whats the main thing you wish to achieve in the next five years?

To be a fully self-sustaining organisation. To see the women’s sewing skills improve so that we can introduce more contemporary product design to our inventory, which will require more complex sewing.

Adam is a Graphic and Communication Designer, living and working in Halifax, Canada. Besides working as a professional Designer, he has been a teacher of Design for almost ten years. His interest in bringing Design thinking to bear on socioeconomic issues led to the creation of Project Peru, and to the collaborative development of Threads of Peru.

Weaver Profile – Paulina Sicos Huaman

Name: Paulina Sicos Huaman

Community: Rumira Sondormayo

Position: I am the Treasurer of the community’s weaving assocation.

Age: 56+ – I am not completely sure.

Marital Status: I am married.

Children: I have six children, three girls and three boys.

Paulina sitting outside her house in Rumira Sondormayo

Favourite Article to weave: I like to weave the challina because it is less difficult to create.

What is your favourite pallay: I like to weave pallays of animals, I have a lot of experience weaving these so now I can do them more quickly and easily than other pallays.

Favourite Animal: My favourite animal is the alpaca, to eat.

What are your favourite colours for weaving: I have always liked red and white.

Do you prefer to work at home or outside: I prefer to work outside because it is calmer.

What hopes and dreams do you have for your children, will they go to school: I have two sons studying in Lima, the other is working as a labourer in the jungle. The others all have families.

What is your favourite thing about your village: I like the freedom of the countryside.

What is the biggest change to happen in your village in the last few years: There is more education, even for the girls. There is now a medical centre and roads.

N.B These interviews were conducted in Quechua and then translated into Spanish and then English so although we try and keep as close to the weavers responses as possible there will undoubtedly be some disparity.

A Day in the life of a Weaver

It is a sunny summer day in Rumira Sondormayo, an Andean village in the highlands of Ollantaytambo, Cusco, surrounded by high mountain peaks and glaciers. Rumira is a typical high-Andean agricultural village with long weaving traditions. In the last years it has taken advantage of the increasing tourism in the region and has diversified its economic activities. Now, most of the men and grown boys in the village work as porters or cooks on the Inca Trail. This has significantly changed the local life style.

During the 6 months of the high tourism season, while most men are away from home for days, the women and older children have to take responsibility for all the house and field works – taking the animals for pasture, working on the chakras (agricultural fields), taking care of the house and the smaller children. In addition, the women help improve the financial stability of the household by weaving traditional cloths and selling them directly to the tourists visiting the village occasionally or on the international market through the support of a NGO.

But let´s take a closer look into the daily life of a woman in Rumira Sondormayo.

Justina is married and has three children, two girls aged  5 and 2 and a one-year old boy. The older girl attends school.  Justina herself is 25 years old and never went to school. She wakes up with the rising of the sun, at about 4:30-5:00 am. The first thing she does in the morning is to pray to God. Then, she starts cooking the meal for the day, which usually consists of potatoes or lisa (Andean legume), sometimes she will make a chuño soup (soup of ice dried potatoes).

Cooking the evening meal

After breakfast she sends her daughter to school and goes to the fields with the animals and her two other children. If her husband isn’t working on the Inca Trail, he would be helping out in the potatoes fields, Justina would bring him the lunch and they would eat together. She is always spinning or preparing the yarn for weaving while taking out the animals for pasture, working on the field or at home. Sometimes, Justina even brings her weaving to the fields to finish it.

The women often weave outside in the summertime.

After lunch, Justina´s daughter comes back from school and goes to help her mother with the animals or do her homework. Justina goes back home at dusk, brings the animals to their corral and starts to prepare the evening meal. After the family has their dinner together, Justina cleans up the kitchen and goes to bed at around 8 pm.