The coronavirus pandemic is still far from over in many parts of the world, including Guatemala where artisanal textile making remains a significant aspect of indigenous Maya cultural heritage and the creative economy. This small collection of artefacts, images and narratives convey findings from recent research into: ‘how Guatemalan artisans diversified their textile practices to sustain their communities during the Covid-19 pandemic’.
Our ethnographic enquiry, undertaken in 2021, was made possible through collaboration with five socially driven textile organisations working in the Lake Atitlan area; A Rum Fellow, Cojolya, Mercado Global, Multicolores, and Kakaw Designs. Analysis of online interviews, videos and photographs taken in the field, provide insights into the creative resilience of artisans as they continued to practice, communicate and market their crafts, throughout the global crisis.
The title Story Cloth derives from Multicolores, who encouraged the artists they work with to embroider ‘my life during the quarantine’, as a reflection on the personal impact of the pandemic. Examples of these embroidered vignettes are featured alongside dolls, woven and dyed (buy-one-give-one) PPE masks, fashion and interior textiles, and rugs made from recycled paca (second-hand clothing).
The exhibition also features ‘Connecting with Your Roots’, a scholarship programme funded by Ibermuseums for The Ixchel Museum of Indigenous Textiles and Clothing, enabling 30 women and girls from Maya groups in Guatemala City to reconnect with their weaving arts heritage. The project is represented in images and a vintage huipil (blouse) the most prevalent form of traje (traditional clothing) worn by Mayan women. Woven on a backstrap loom, the huipil incorporates colours, patterns and motifs symbolizing nature, religious and community affiliation.
Story Cloth is an outcome of ongoing research into the sustainable potential for integrating digital technology into artisanal business models, supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and Quality-Related (QR) funding, Nottingham Trent University.
Header photo: Maria Sacalxot Coti rug hooking. Photo by Joe Coca courtesy of Multicores
Katherine Townsend, Nottingham Trent University Anna Piper, Sheffield Hallam University Luciana Jabur, Friends of The Ixchel Museum
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