THE WO­VEN WAY

SHIBUI Issue - - MEET THE MAKER - CU­RA­TOR BRISEIS ONFRAY THE MAKER VIC­TO­RIA MENDOZA PHO­TOS MOACIR ZELEDON SUP­PORT­ING THE SIN­GLE MOTH­ERS’ CO­OP­ER­A­TIVE OF SAN JUAN LA LA­GUNA (ASOCIACION MADRES SOLTERAS DE SAN JUAN LA LA­GUNA) COUN­TRY GU­ATEMALA, SOUTH AMER­ICA

A GROUP OF SIN­GLE MOTH­ERS ARE WEAV­ING THEIR WAY TO HELP PRO­VIDE A FU­TURE FOR THEIR FAM­I­LIES AND COM­MU­NITY. VIC­TO­RIA MENDOZA, WITH HER DAUGH­TERS IN­GRID AND BETTY AJU, SHARE AD­MIRABLE IN­SIGHTS INTO THEIR COLOUR­FUL CUL­TURE AND CRAFT.

WHEN, WHERE AND WHY DID YOU START YOUR CO-OP?

Our Madres Solteras As­so­ci­a­tion was cre­ated over four years ago be­cause our ini­tial mem­bers were sub­ject to dis­crim­i­na­tion within other lo­cal co­op­er­a­tives due to be­ing sin­gle moth­ers. To­day we have 27 mem­bers, all sin­gle moth­ers who work to­gether to pro­vide for our chil­dren do­ing some­thing that we love do­ing.

WHAT DOES YOUR CO-OP SPE­CIALISES IN?

We spe­cialise in cre­at­ing tex­tiles with raw ma­te­ri­als that we ob­tain from our nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. We work with or­ganic cot­ton, bam­boo fi­bre and silk that we get from but­ter­fly co­coons. We work the en­tire process: gath­er­ing of ma­te­ri­als, dye­ing with nat­u­ral colours, prepar­ing the threads and work­ing the back-strap loom.

IS YOUR CRAFT TYP­I­CAL OF GU­ATEMALA?

It is our cul­tural her­itage and pride, all our work is made by hand and in­spired by the nat­u­ral and vi­brant colours of our land and our home, San Juan La La­guna.

WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES YOUR WORK TRA­DI­TIONAL TO YOUR COUN­TRY?

Ev­ery­thing! The de­signs, the colours and the tech­niques. Each colour and pat­tern rep­re­sents our iden­tity, our his­tory and our pride.

IS IT TRA­DI­TIONAL FOR WOMEN TO LEARN THIS CRAFT AT AN EARLY AGE?

Yes, it is a tra­di­tion passed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. I be­gan to learn when I was six years old.

WHO TAUGHT YOU HOW TO WEAVE, LOOM AND SEW?

I was taught by my mother and I have taught my chil­dren.

YOUR WORK IS BEAU­TI­FULLY CRAFTED. DO YOU MAKE IT ALL BY HAND?

Yes, most of our work is done en­tirely by hand. Only a small por­tion re­quires sewing on a ma­chine.

YOUR RE­GION IS FA­MOUS FOR VI­BRANT COLOUR. WHERE DOES ALL OF THIS WON­DER­FUL COLOUR IN­SPI­RA­TION COME FROM?

It all comes from our par­ents, our an­ces­tors and how our cul­ture was rep­re­sented in the spir­i­tual mean­ing of our flora and fauna. There is so much in­spi­ra­tion within our en­vi­ron­ment, we can draw from our lakes, our moun­tains, our trees and our birds, any­thing and ev­ery­thing.

WHAT MA­TE­RI­ALS AND TOOLS DO YOU WORK WITH?

Our raw ma­te­ri­als are or­ganic cot­ton, bam­boo and silk. For our nat­u­ral dyes we use avo­cado pits, cochineal in­sects, car­rots, cof­fee, achiote seeds and jiquilite plants amongst many oth­ers. Tools we use are the tools to pre­pare the cot­ton, bam­boo and silk and the back strap loom.

HOW WOULD YOU DE­SCRIBE A TYP­I­CAL WORK DAY?

A typ­i­cal day would have an early start with 2-3 hours of house work fol­lowed by six hours of tex­tile work and fin­ished with two hours of more house­hold du­ties: prepar­ing din­ner and clean­ing af­ter­wards.

DO YOU THINK YOUR CHIL­DREN WILL CON­TINUE THE TRA­DI­TION IN THE FU­TURE?

Of course! It is a tra­di­tion in­her­ited from our an­ces­tors which we do not want to lose. It’s the rea­son why we, as moth­ers, start teach­ing our chil­dren at a young age.

DO YOU HOLD WORK­SHOPS FOR TOURISTS? IF SO, HOW OF­TEN?

We don’t have a set work­shop pro­gram in place but we can eas­ily ar­range some­thing if the op­por­tu­nity arises.

“IT IS A TRA­DI­TION IN­HER­ITED FROM OUR AN­CES­TORS WHICH WE DO NOT WANT TO LOSE. IT’S THE REA­SON WHY WE, AS MOTH­ERS, START TEACH­ING OUR CHIL­DREN AGE.”VIC­TO­RIA AT A YOUNG MENDOZA

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY A TOURIST CAN HELP SUP­PORT YOUR CO-OP?

By pur­chas­ing our prod­ucts and us­ing them with the same pride and re­spect that we cre­ate them with. And by spread­ing the word about our as­so­ci­a­tion and our story.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR TOWN AND COUN­TRY?

What I love most about my coun­try is the nat­u­ral land­scapes, our peo­ple, our tra­di­tions and our cus­toms.

DO YOU HAVE A LO­CAL TIP FOR TRAV­ELLERS VIS­IT­ING YOUR RE­GION?

If you are in Lake Ati­t­lan, be sure to come to our mar­ket stall to visit. En­joy your trav­els, take time to learn as much about our lo­cal cul­ture and tra­di­tions as pos­si­ble and have a lot of fun!

HOW DOES A TRAV­ELLER FIND YOU? WHAT IS YOUR LO­CA­TION AD­DRESS?

We are in San Juan La La­guna, as you get off the boat fol­low the main street into town, we are halfway up the hill on the left.

SHIBUI & Co. would like to thank the women of this won­der­ful co-op­er­a­tive ini­tia­tive for their valu­able work and in­sight. We would also like to thank our roamers Mao­cir and Skye from Cielo Col­lec­tive for con­nect­ing us and also pro­vid­ing the trans­la­tion for this story. cie­lo­col­lec­tive.com.au

CLOCK­WISE FROM ABOVE Betty on the loom; nat­u­rally dyed yarn ready to weave; SHIBUI roamers Moacir Zeledon and Skye Braby from Cielo Col­lec­tive, on a re­cent visit to the Co-op; Betty weav­ing her magic; wo­ven fab­ric ready to pur­chase at the As­so­ci­a­tion’s mar­ket stall held in San Juan La La­guna.

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