Weavers of Guatemala
One of the first weaving centers I learned about outside of Sub-Saharan Africa was Guatemala. Here textiles played an analogous cultural role to what I had grown up with in Nigeria. Everything, from spinning of cotton to dying and weaving, was done by hand. Much of the clothing was handwoven on backstrap looms or hand operated larger floor looms. I fell in love with these textiles and developed a collection of pieces from the late 19th and early 20th century.
When I first arrived in Guatemala backstrap weaving was ubiquitous in Mayan villages in the highlands. I visited important weaving centers around Antigua and the departments of Chimaltenango, Quiche. Solola, Quezaltenango and Huehuetenango. Designs and techniques varied between locales and weavers were always happy to show visitors their work.
I also visited the town of Salcaja where much of the countries’ skirt material is made. Salcaja is a center of jaspe, a resist-die technique that produces distinct designs unique to Guatemalsa. One can see every step of the process here from the spinning of cotton to the dying and tie-dying of material, the threading of the looms and the weaving.
There have been enormous changes in materials and dyes during the time that I have been visiting Guatemala. Older beautiful textiles can be seen at the Museo Iximche in Guatemala City or the renowned Casa de Artes in Antigua.
Nzuri Textiles has begun a partnership with a small network of weavers that use small batches of locally grown cotton that comes in natural shades of white, gray, brown and green. Stay posted at NzuriTextiles.com and Instagram for our Guatemalan collection products which will be coming in 2018.