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    Colombia

    We commission and source bags from weavers in four distinct indigenous communities in Colombia: the Wayuu tribe, the Arhuaca tribe, the Kankuamo tribe and the Kamëntsá tribe. Each of these tribes produce beautiful handwoven mochilas for us.

    Wayuu Tribe, Colombia

    Working with the nomadic Wayuu Tribe, the largest tribe located in the region of La Guajira is where the crochet mochilas are made.

    The nomadic Wayuu tribe is the largest tribe located in the region of La Guajira, and the creators of the colourfully patterned Wayuu mochilas. A mochila, Spanish for knapsack, is a traditional slouch bag that has stood the test of time in Colombian tribes and is still worn as a modern expression of heritage, spirituality and community. It is also one of our core pieces bought back season after season since the beginning of Muzungu Sisters in 2011.

    Using techniques which have been passed down for centuries, each mochila is crafted from vibrant colours with a signature weave that marks a rite of passage embodied within each design. Look out for the bottom of each design as they feature intricate symbolic designs chosen by the weaver as a means of self-representation.

    In 2011, we introduced the Kankuamo Tribe’s craftsmanship into our collections with the fique mochila, a woven design.

    Located in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the northeast of Colombia, the Kankuamo tribe weave mochilas made of fibres extracted from the fique plant. Once the fibres have been extracted, they are washed and then bleached by the sun with the colours coming from natural dyes found in local plants and tree barks. In 2014 we commissioned a series of natural fique mochilas bags adorned with brightly-coloured pom poms for Muzungu Sisters’ playful twist on tradition. This collaboration subsequently became the first instance of an inter-tribal collaboration between the Wayuu and Kankuamo tribes, combining Wayuu’s colourful aesthetic alongside the Kankuamo’s organic craft processes.

    Arhuaco Tribe, Colombia

    The Arhuaco people in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range uses pure sheep’s wool for their designs in subdued earth tones of black, brown and grey. Although the whole Arhuaco tribe is involved in this production, it is only Wati (Arhuaco women) who can weave the bags together according to custom and teachings passed down by their mothers from an early age. This includes wildlife and cosmology, symbols which they weave into each bag.

    In the heart of the Sibundoy Valley along the western fringe of the Colombian Amazon lies the Kamëntsá or Kamsa tribe. Here, they produce beautifully beaded mochilas for us, hand-embellished with thousands of glass beads in unique geometric patterns. Strong beliefs in the power of Mother Earth are celebrated on a daily basis by this community, expressed through music, dance and exquisite craftsmanship, as represented in the beadwork adorning these works of art.

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