The Wayuu’s Mochila Bags

This traditional object is today  almost the most common fashion accesorie in Colombia. It could be made of different materials depending of the country’s region. One of this region located in the North of Colombia is La Guajira, a place where the dessert is extended until the sea. In this area live the  people of the Wayuu, recognized for their art  of knitting colorful mochila bags.

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The wayuu women are the responsible to practice and mantain their ancestral knitting heritage. When girls are near to the seven years old, they learn by watching their mothers moving the wool between their fingers. When the girl becomes in a woman (after the menarche), she is enclosed during one year. This is time enough to learn how to be a good wife, a good housekeeping, a good woman and a good knitter who could braid her future. When the preparation period ends, she presents her Mochila bag to the Mamo* in order to be approved  as a member of the  community, and to promise she will transmit her knowledge to  the next generation.

Each woman creates it’s own mochila bag with some figures that represent either her  caste, the people, jerarquies as well as the the nose of a cow or the color of a boa snake. But in general, the mochila bag is an abstraction of the world.  Each thread of wool, remembers the vibrant colors of some animals,  flowers and sceneries. In general, the splendid nature which is around to the Wayuu town.

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All this colors are combined in a weave that tell a story  by means of the knitting of many figures.  This geometrical forms were displayed to women during her dreams.  The knitting starts in a point: the middle point. As the real life that has its starts in the conception, the Mochila bag begins in a point which spread in a circular manner until create the mochila’s basement. It represents the place where all the foundations are built, where all will be supported in the future. It represents the society’s values.

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After that,  the knit grows upwards creating a close container. While this Jobs is done by women who biologically contains the pregnancy, the gaza strap is done for men, because the are who support the life as the gaza support the Mochila bag.

Wayuu women know that their job is knitting, either a mochila bag or a hammock, either her life or the Wayuu people’s history. It will be her daily job until her death. It is the job that join her to the community and with the universe. As the spider sculpting circular tales in its web Wayuu women knit the hammock that swing all dreams and the Mochilas bag which carry on the life of their culture.

*Mamo: He is the central figure of the Wayuu’s culture. He represents the sacred law.

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One thought on “The Wayuu’s Mochila Bags

  1. Hi Angelica,
    I think that (mochilas bags) isn’t only a bag for whoever does read your words, it is a culture value that means a lot for (La Guajira) people. It is fascinating how things could have different meanings to each one, and how cultures vary around the world. I liked your reading, because it kept me thinking how in my culture we have things that represent us as a community.

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