Threads of Peru Blog

The Awaq Shoulder Bag: Weaving Technique that was Nearly Lost

The AWAQ shoulder bag with front pocket is a technical feat of weaving ingenuity, composed of one continuous piece of weaving! That’s right: unlike every other bag out there, that practical front pocket is NOT a separate piece sewn onto the main bag, but rather a part of the main weaving. This traditional technique was brought to the brink of extinction – almost lost altogether, a distant memory in the recesses of time – but was revived by a dedicated anthropologist in the Mapacho Valley in the 1990s.

Awaq Shoulder Bag_Peru

This model wears the Awaq Shoulder Bag, featuring the pocket that is all of a piece with the bag- a technique that was nearly lost. 

 

The Mapacho Valley region is composed of a network of small villages dotting the mountain peaks, which tower above the valley below and its powerful river. Threads of Peru works with groups of weavers in two of these communities: Parobamba and Pitukiska. The AWAQ shoulder bags are woven in Pitukiska, one of the most isolated communities we work with. In fact, it was entirely cut off from the rest of the region until the road was completed in 2014. Now, a fruit truck has regular access to the community, bringing in much needed supplies, but when we first began visiting, we had to hike over three hours from one of the neighboring villages – that’s after the 4-hour drive from Cusco!

To make the AWAQ shoulder bag, a weaver like Narcisa [see photo below] sets out a special 6-staked loom, around which to lay the warp (for more about the traditional weaving process, see here). The process is much more complex than the usual technique, and requires special skill and concentration.

 

Narcisa is among the indigenous weavers that is in possession of this ancient technique. 

 

The AWAQ shoulder bag is a variation of the traditional chuspa, a small bag used for carrying coca leaves that was once ubiquitous in the Andes and now is seen more rarely. The AWAQ shoulder bag comes in three different colour palettes: coral, amber and mint. Each of these styles features the vibrant colors and extensive use of pallay (traditional woven designs) characteristic of the Mapacho Valley region.

 

The Awaq bag boasts vibrant colors that are unique to the Mapacho Valley region 

 

This region’s textiles stand out in sharp contrast to other regions in the Cusco area, which often feature more somber colors and less intricate designs. The tropical color palettes of the AWAQ shoulder bag should come as no surprise, however – the Mapacho Valley borders the Madre de Dios region, which is where the southern arm of Peru’s jungle region begins.

The AWAQ shoulder bag makes an excellent holiday gift,  guaranteed to enthrall with its vibrant colors and design, and its unique, highly skilled artisanship.

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Narcisa - this lovely weaver is among the few who possess the ancient technique of making all-of-a-piece bags, where the pocket is part of the weaving and not sewn on separately.