Handmade History: Mayan Weaving Demonstrations

By A Caldwell
Nov 05, 2012 Bookmark and Share

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>> Click here to watch "Handmade History: Mayan Weaving"

Few people will ever see Mayan weaving live, but the Handmade History: Mayan Weaving Demonstrations held throughout fall term 2013 in the North Quad Commons (Rm 2435) is providing that rare opportunity.

The Handmade demonstrations held by Tati Calixt, RLL lecturer in Spanish, showcase the Nahualá, or backstrap loom weaving technique, common in the Sololá, Huehuetenango, Sacatepéquez, Quetzaltenango and Quiché regions of the western highlands of Guatemala. 

For many women in the region weaving has become the lifeline of support for themselves and their families. The Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996) left many of them without husbands and thrust them into the position of sole breadwinner. As a result several associations of weavers now exist in the country to help these women bring their goods to market.

TRAMA, an association of 400 weavers, is one of the associations that emerged in the aftermath of the genocidal violence. It is also the association that Tati and her students will be working with on the GIEU trip she is planning for summer 2013.

Tati became interested in the various weaving techniques in South America when she taught the 232 Spanish special topics course “Un Museo de la Región Andina” in fall 2007. The course covered several topics related to the Andes Region, which includes Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela, but it was textiles that fascinated her the most.

“I wanted to close the gap between what was written in books and what I had personally experienced, in order to bring the truth to the classroom,” Tati said.

Although Tati knitted and did embroidery with her grandmother growing up, learning the varying weaving techniques was unlike anything she had ever experienced before.

“It’s a personal journey for me,”Tati said. “Not just learning the technique. I realize now that my connection with threads is bigger than myself. I’ve come to understand that threads are my origin and weaving is my country: it is the place where I can connect with many pasts, where I can be who I am and who I was.”

You can watch Tati give her Mayan weaving demonstration here and be sure to come for a live demonstration on November 29th or December 6th, 1:30-2:45pm in 2435 North Quad.

Interested in Guatemala? Learn more about the upcoming GIEU: Handmade History trip to Guatemala in July 2013 by visiting the CGIS website or contact Tati Calixto, tcalixto@umich.edu. 

For information on TRAMA visit TRAMA Textiles