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Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge MOST/CIRAN
PERU BP.27

TITLE

Aymara Kuru, the ancient technique of weaving belts, taught to displaced indigenous children by indigenous women from the communities of rural Ayacucho.

DESCRIPTION

Aymara Kuru is an ancient technique of weaving belts or girdles, used in the rural areas of the department of Ayacucho in Peru. All the materials used are made from animals native to the region (alpaca, sheep etc.) and coloured with traditional vegetal dyes. In 1994 the Chirapaq Center of Indigenous Cultures started to teach Aymara Kuru to displaced children attending the Noqanchiq cultural expression workshops. The teachers were indigenous women who had migrated from rural areas to the cities as a result of terrorism or economic hardship. The technique has not always been taught to children. The last generation, which was largely displaced during the forgotten civil war (between 1980 and 1992), was in danger of losing this knowledge altogether. Many children were orphaned, which meant that knowledge of Aymara Kuru was not passed on.

Aymara Kuru does not require any advanced instruments. On the contrary, in its simplest form it can be practised almost anywhere where there is a standing object to which the threads can be tied. This simpler version is first taught to children, who then learn more as they grow older and can produce belts and girdles of better quality.

Aymara Kuru was incorporated in the Noqanchiq workshops because the various activities (selection of the fibres, dyeing, spinning, warping and interlacing) develop the children’s psychomotive, symbolic, logical, mathematical and physical abilities. It is also a part of the ancient Andean culture and a way of affirming the identity and self-esteem of displaced children who have suffered hardships during the years of terrorism and who have been uprooted from their homes, their culture and their ancestors. In addition, it means that ancient techniques of vegetal dyeing and spinning can be passed on to the younger generations.

THEMES:
CHILD WELFARE, WEAVING, WOMEN, DISPLACED PERSONS

COUNTRY: PERU
Region: Ayacucho

INDIGENOUS ASPECTS

Aymara Kuru is an ancient practice, which uses natural colorants and natural fibres from Andean animals (alpaca, sheep). It is a traditional technique native to the area and uses simple tools that require no large investment. It has two levels of difficulty, which makes it very suitable for children.

SUSTAINABILITY

Economic sustainability: it generates income for the children and their families.

Environmental sustainability: the weavers use natural materials and colorants (from trees, plants and cochinilla (woodlice)). While searching for and selecting the vegetable and animal fibres, the children get to know them and to understand the value of the natural environment, the flora and fauna, and in this way will contribute to their preservation.

Other types of sustainability: it affirms the children’s identity and culture, while developing their various abilities.

STAKEHOLDERS AND BENEFICIARIES

The beneficiaries are children from 8 - 17 years old. Teaching of Aymara Kuru initially started as part of the Noqanchiq cultural expression workshops, intended to give displaced children an opportunity for socio-emotional and cultural expression and to affirm their identity. It is now becoming more widespread since the Ministry of Education has made it part of the official curriculum in this part of Peru.

The project was initiated by the Chirapaq Center of Indigenous Cultures. The teachers are displaced indigenous women from the rural areas of Ayacucho and the pupils are indigenous children. Children who are not of rural origin are now also being taught the technique in city schools. Around 500 children have been taught the technique over a period of eight years.

STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES

STRENGTHS:

  • The displaced children learn to identify with their indigenous Andean culture, acquire greater self-esteem and respect for their own culture.
  • It is an alternative and innovative form of education, which develops the children’s locomotive abilities (both subtle and general), and the notions of up, down, left, right, inside, outside, etc. It also trains their symbolic abilities, through the representation and weaving of icons, their physical posture and their logical and mathematical abilities.
  • The children also learn the ancient formulae for preparing vegetal dyes, thus ensuring that this knowledge is not lost.
WEAKNESSES:
  • Competition on the market is fierce, so selling the products can be difficult. There is no credit available to set up workshops in their own homes, so that they could produce belts of better quality and increase their incomes.
  • Indigenous vegetal dyes are not necessarily environmentally friendly, particularly if salts or minerals are used in their preparation. In the practice described, however, every effort is made to combine the use of natural resources with preservation of the environment.
IT IS CONSIDERED SUCCESSFUL BECAUSE:
  • It contributes to the development of the children which, through the teaching of Aymara Kuru, is better integrated culturally, socially and emotionally.
  • Other institutions and the Peruvian state recognize the value of teaching Aymara Kuru. The Ministry of Education is incorporating it into the formal curriculum of the schools in the Ayacucho region.
SUCCESS EXPRESSED IN QUALITATIVE OR QUANTITATIVE TERMS:
  • About 500 children have been taught Aymara Kuru over a period of 8 years. With the technique being introduced in state schools, this number will grow rapidly.
  • The children and adolescents have been taught an ancient technique that is part of their Andean culture and which might otherwise have been lost, while at the same time affirming their identity and gaining self-esteem.
POTENTIAL FOR REPLICATION

It is no problem to transfer the practice.

The Ministry of Education has made the teaching of Aymara Kuru part of the formal curriculum in state schools in the Ayacucho region. Chirapaq has received financial support from international organizations to produce and distribute the Aymara Kuru - Guia didactica guide to teachers and schools in the area.

The only problem would be if the traditional designs were to be used for commercial purposes, as they belong to the people of the area. The aim is not to create a new market, but to give children and adolescents the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge. One possible outcome of their efforts could be the commercialization of their work.

PERIOD:
From: 1995 to 1999

BUDGET:
88,000.00 (= 21,984.94 p/year)

CONTACT PERSON:

Wari Ezequiel Zárate Gutiérrez
Chirapaq
Centro de Culturas Indias
(see below)

ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED:

Organization that provided this information:

Chirapaq
Centro de Culturas Indias
(Center of Indigenous Cultures)
11-0504 Lima 11
Peru
Telephone: +51-1-4232757
Fax: +51-1-4232757
E-mail: chirapaq@amauta.rcp.net.pe
Url: http://www.ecouncil.ac.cr/ngoexch/chirapaq.htm

Cooperating organizations:

  • Stichting Kinderpostzegels - Leiden - The Netherlands
  • Vlaamze Wiza - 8800 Roeseiare, Flandre - Belgium


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