Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A LOOMING TOWN ........ Part II

Teotitlan del Valle is a small Zapotec village, located 30 km south east of the famous city of Oaxaca, renowned for its arts and crafts. Teotitlan is famous for its rugs, which utilize wool of local sheep, dyed with natural pigments and woven on hand-looms. 

Teotitlan del Valle
We felt as though we were in on a secret. Though we had walked about 20 kilometers, our feet did not tire. We joined the friendly driver and his family as they told us about the history of the village and showed us how their looms worked. It was cool inside, and the fresh wet wool and the newly processed dyes reminded us of the previous night in the forest. Even the walls were made of mud and brick, as creepers grew on the outside. Everything was earth-toned, we were living symbiotically, we were living with, and not against.

Weaving on a loom
Before the Spanish invasion, Teotitlan was called ‘Xaquija’, meaning ‘celestial constellation’. It is for this reason that many of the rug patterns seem to mimic the formula of the stars. 

Further, Teotitlan’s location beside a reservoir, a national park and a range of mountains (which are revered as sacred), has allowed a great diversity of bird life to inhabit the small village. Because nature is revered in this city, several aspects of the environment are manifested on the rugs that they produce.

In a time when traditional arts and crafts everywhere are being replaced by machines and for modes of income that require less effort and reap more wealth, Teotitlan is one of the few towns left in the world where textiles are the sole focus for both income and recreation. Sixty eight percent of the population creates wool rugs from traditional means and utilizes traditional designs. 

Traditional spinning wheel
The more fascinating aspect is that while the residents of Teotitlan worship nature, they also use nature to gain all their colors, most famously the cochineal beetle that resides on cacti for its deep crimson and orange tints. The needle-bush, indigo, moss, brazil wood and Mexican marigolds are other sources of color.

Cactus and insects being prepared for creating dye

Creating the colour indigo
The rugs, as a result, are an earth-toned blend of natural, vibrant colors, nature motifs and designs borrowed from indigenous Aztec and Navajo hieroglyphs. 

But beyond this: we felt part of a community. We felt part of nature. Even the food we ate seemed to reflect the rugs. No one let us pay for anything, they even wanted to present us with a rug. We finally convinced them to let us buy two for our families. The rug traveled with me through many countries and houses before it arrived in India. And in each home, it made me feel closer to the earth. Perhaps because the earth, as opposed to continents and countries with borders, is universal, is everywhere and unconditionally generous, as were the homes of those who weave these rugs, day in and day out. They have taken from the earth, and thus they have only to pay it forward. 

Text: Wooly eyes
Images: Google image

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