© iStock/nikauforest
© iStock/nikauforest

Textiles in the Indigenous Art Museum, Sucre

3 minutes to read

For some cultures, textiles - further than a piece of fabric- are communication means and artistic representations that reflect their identity. The Indigenous Art Museum of Sucre shows and explains the story behind the textiles of the Tarabuco and Jalk’ a Andean cultures.

Art of pre-hispanic cultures

While prehispanic cultures of Latin America had advanced technical knowledge in areas such as construction, agriculture, astronomy, and others, their artistic expressions were textiles that played an important role, constituting a meaningful legacy of their heritage.

Jalk’ a and Tarabuco cultures are located in the area that currently covers the north of Chuquisaca and Potosí departments of Bolivia.

We can observe the textiles of both cultures, the same way we observe a painting because, for millennia, these cultures have been using textiles as a means to represent their thoughts, everyday images, or even their visions.

In these cultures, textile weaving was, and still is, a work done equally by men and women, using a vertical loom. This equipment – still in use - is quite simple, though, what truly makes the difference is the talent of the incredibly skilled weavers.

People in these communities officially start to practice the weaving techniques when they are little kids, but one could say that they begin to learn when they are babies while they spend hours wrapped in their parents' back, observing them work. 

The Indigenous Art Museum

The Indigenous Art Museum is located in Sucre, Bolivia, right next to La Recoleta Viewpoint. Over there, besides learning about the Jalk’a and Tarabuco art expressions, you can see and learn how those textiles are made by hand by a member of these communities.

Indigenous Art Museum ASUR
Indigenous Art Museum ASUR
© Zoomalmapa/VanesaZegada
© Zoomalmapa/VanesaZegada

Still, there is something even more important about this Museum: it acts as an NGO whose main objective is to preserve the artistic production of these communities while generating employment and sustainability for them.

At the same time, the NGO stands out the value and complexity of these textiles: there are not two equal Jalk’a and Tarabuco textiles in the world, because these handmade pieces are not pre-designed; instead, they come from the artisans' minds and visions, just as any piece of art does. Moreover, a piece of those textiles can take several weeks or months to be finished.

Tarabuco textiles

The Tarabuco textiles' characteristics are order and symmetry. Even though those textiles might have some abstract figures, they are mainly representations of what surrounds the environment of the indigenous weavers: people, animals, vegetation, houses, and so on.

© iStock/nikauforest
© iStock/nikauforest

Jalq’a textiles

Jalk'a textiles, contrasting with the order and symmetry of Tarabuco ones, reflect a total chaos of a sacred world of darkness, dreams, and fear, called Ukhu Pacha. Using only black and red colors, they show representations of mythical creatures of this world, called Khurus, which, according to Jalq’a beliefs, show up to people in moments of loneliness, while they are in remote places of the highlands. Supay is considered the god of this world, which is filled with animals with two heads, mammals with wings, birds with four legs, and other creatures that seem unreal in our world.

© iStock/nikauforest
© iStock/nikauforest

Through the complex and detailed Jalk' a and Tarabuco textiles, it is possible to unravel ancient cultures. At the same time, we become part of the effort to preserve this fragile and valuable artistic legacy that emerged long ago in remote places of the world.


The author

Vanesa Zegada

Vanesa Zegada

I am Vanesa and I am from Bolivia. I am in love with my homeland. It never stops surprising me, even if I am a local. It is a place full of diversity, traditions, interesting spots that I want to share with you through my stories on itinari.

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