The Wayuu, Their Mochilas, and Their Traditional Designs

People around the world admire the colorful mochilas (bags) of the Wayuu Indigenous Peoples. If you know nothing about them or their art, here's a starter guide for you! 

Manaure, La Guajira

The Wayuu

The Wayuu live in La Guajira, the northeastern coastal tip of Colombia through northwestern Venezuela. They are the most numerous indigenous group in Colombia with over 380,000 members. For generations Wayuu women have practiced weaving, making traditional hammocks for sleeping and bags of all sizes to carry their belongings. The Wayuu are known as the people of the sand, sun, and wind. 

Traditional Wayuu Mochilas

Wayuu Mochilas

For the Wayuu, the traditional method of crocheting a mochila is with one skinny thread. The stitches are tighter and finer allowing for more intricate designs. I always show people at markets the thin thread in the tassel - that's what the artisans crochet with! The process to create a large mochila can take up to a month. 


Wayuu Mochila Tassel


If you travel anywhere in Colombia you'll find mochilas on the streets and in gift shops, but overwelmingly those bags are a modern version crocheted more quickly by using two threads together instead of just one. While there is nothing wrong with the Wayuu innovating to provide a less expensive and more commerical product to sell to tourists, largely the modern bags often lack the traditional symbolism and artisans are not paid fair wages for their work. 

We showcase the traditional 1-thread mochilas to share not only the talent, but the culture of the Wayuu. This is important because in weaving a mochila, an artisan shows how they are feeling, what they've been dreaming about, and expresing themselves through their use of colors and designs. 


Traditional Designs

Traditional designs are called "Kanaas" and "Kanaasü" is the art of drawing pictures. The Kanaas are created with inspiration from the world around the Wayuu and include objects in their surroundings and daily lives. Here are four Kanaas you'll find in many of the mochilas we offer: 

Traditional Wayuu Design

1. ATSANTO'UYAA : Double Elbow


A Traditional Wayuu Design

2. JAÑULEKY: Head of a Fly


Traditional Wayuu Design

3. KALEPSÜ: Like the wooden hook used to hang objects in the home.


Traditional Wayuu Mochila Design
4. PASATOLO'UYAA: Cow intestines (yes, really!)

When you invest in a traditional mochila you are helping to preserve this art of the Wayuu culture.  Take a look at the mochilas we have available from Wayuu artisans from Fundación Susu available online today. 

1 comment

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