The textile art of Taquile Island

Peru has an ancient artistic tradition of weaving which stretches far back to the Inca, Pukara and Colla civilisations. Today, very few villages still continue this tradition, which is an expression of their culture and community, but Taquile Island, set high above Lake Titicaca, is one of them.

The weaving is an integral part of the day to day life of the island’s 2000 inhabitants. Men, women and children weave their history, each one in their own style, following codes which hold strong symbolism. Thus, married women wear black skirts, yet before finding a husband they alternate between no fewer than twenty five skirts of different sparkling colours. The women practice their art using looms fixed to the ground; notably, they make “chumpi” for their husbands, belts with extremely precise patterns decorating each part of the fabric and describing the history of the community, the oral ancestral traditions or even recent religious celebrations. The men weave sitting down, working with a pedal loom to which they are attached using a cord made by their wife’s hair, symbolising the couple’s harmony. Along with their shirts and waistcoats they express their creativity via their “chullo”, headgear with very long ear flaps, in colours which describe their age, their marital status or their community.

The handmade looms, come from ancient times. The knowledge of how to use them and how to work with the cloths is passed down to the children, from a very young age, from generation to generation. The Taquile weave, is not only of aesthetic and technical interest but is also a genuine means of cultural expression for a community, a perennial trace of the history of civilisations. This is why Unesco has decided to protect this textile art, a cultural monument and ancestral tradition.