The Q'ero place a great important on textiles because they believe that you can literally weave the energy of your future with colors, shapes and patterns.
Textiles are used in ceremony and in everyday life. They are created to celebrate marriages, welcome new babies into the world, as a mestana cloth when used to wrap a Shaman's mesa, and to help with everyday chores like carrying food, goods and children.
The symbols and colors that appear in the cloth hold a special significance for the owner since they hold the energy that has being sourced for that person. Don Francisco's poncho for instance, which was woven by his wife Juanita, sources the energy of the sun with its diamond pattern and bright reds and pinks. By wearing the poncho, Don Francisco is even more powerfully connected to the energy of the sun.
I was drawn to a new mestana in Peru this year because for me it sourced the energy of balanced chakras. Not only did it include the colors of the chakras, there was a consistency in the pattern that spoke to me. I also really love the repeating strands of swirls which for me illustrated the dance between light and dark (black and white pattern) and earth and spirit (red and white pattern).
My first mestana was very brightly colored as well. After selecting this cloth, I found out that this type of cloth is traditionally worn by young women as a signal to suitors that she is ready to marry. It is hand embroidered and includes the energy of water (the brightly colored stripe of diamonds on either edge), the mountains (the brown triangles in the center) and the rainbow bridge to Spirit (the rainbow stripes intersecting the mountains).
Other more traditional cloths often contain a symbol called a chuncho. The chuncho figure, comprised of a v-shaped head (sometimes with eyes) connected to a x-shaped body, represents the "wild spirit." Including this pattern in a textile is a way to honor the "wild spirit" that lives in each of us. An interesting modern day link to the chuncho can be found in the logo for Burning Man, a week long arts festival in the Nevada desert which aims to embody the "wild spirit" concept.
This July when I visited the Chinchero Weaver's Community I saw first hand how this tradition of weaving has been handed down from generation to generation and how it still plays a vital role in the lives of the women at the cooperative.