Traditional Textiles of Cusco: Weaving Heritage

Photo from a group dye day in Accha Alta, in which the weavers are rinsing out a batch of freshly dyed yarn. During one of these events, the CTTC goes to the community with all the materials needed for dyeing and the weavers bring all the yarn they have prepared, to be sorted and dyed depending on the colors they want to weave with.

The Center of Traditional Textiles of the Cusco (CTTC) was founded in 1996, when the textile traditions in the Cusco Region of the Andes, based in the ancient Pre-Columbian cultures of Peru, were in danger of disappearing forever. Younger generations had ceased to learn how to weave as well as the traditions behind it, leaving the fate of Peruvian textiles in the hands of aging generations. The principal objectives of the Center are to recapture the history of, spread information about, and stimulate the production of traditional textiles, as well as provide support and assistance to the communities of weavers with which the Center works. By researching and documenting techniques, styles and designs, the Center works to preserve weaving traditions for future generations. Presently, the Center works with nine communities in the Cusco Region: Chinchero, Chahuaytire, Accha Alta, Patabamba, Mahuaypampa, Sallac, Chumbivilcas, Pitumarca and Acopia; All of which preserve unique ancestral techniques in their textiles. These communities are working to improve their quality of life while reinstituting millennia old practices integral to their cultural history and identity. By promoting the sale of textiles, providing each community with an appropriate place to weave, and, above all else, encouraging younger generations to weave, the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco is accomplishing one of its more desired goals: enabling Cuzqueñan weavers to feel proud of their heritage, traditions, and, most importantly, themselves. continue reading–>

The Kala Vernacular Education and Local Ecological Knowledge Project

Workshop participants developing the Kala garden game.

While Papua New Guinea is widely known as an area with high levels of biolinguistic diversity, Tok Pisin, the creole lingua franca of the country, as well as English, have been edging out indigenous languages across the country. In the Kala speaking region, there is diversity across the villages as to the level of Kala retention, but Tok Pisin is steadily replacing Kala, causing language shift in all villages. The fact that English is the official language of education in Papua New Guinea has also helped to cause language shift here. While there are policies in place across the country that state that children should be taught in their indigenous language for their first three years of schooling, language diversity and limited resources and teachers have not guaranteed the equal implementation of these policies across Papua New Guinea. Noticing the language shift occurring in the Kala communities during his doctoral work, Wagner realized “how fundamental the [Kala language] was to the transmission of entirely basic, never mind more esoteric levels of ecological knowledge and related skills”; this realization sparked the development of the Kala Vernacular Education and Local Ecological Knowledge research project. continue reading–>

Re-establishing the inextricable link: Mbyá culture and biological diversity in the Atlantic Rainforest in Southeast Brazil

Project Contributors: Márcia Gomes de Oliveira and Norbert Suchanek

The Mbyá are one of the last surviving indigenous peoples of the Atlantic Rainforest in the Southeast of Brazil, known as Mata Atlântica, which once covered part of Paraguay, Uruguay, the North of Argentina and the whole coastal areas all the way to the Brazilian Northeast. Missionaries and scientists generally label the Mbyá as Guaraní-Mbyá, a label that the Mbyá politely shrug off, as they do not identify themselves as Guaraní.

During the past 500 years, the Mbyá were able to keep their language and their culture alive, because  traditionally  they are nomads. As pressures on the Atlantic Rainforest region increased, the Mbyá could always retreat farther into the forest. By the second half of the 20th century, although most of their ecologically rich rainforest ecosystem was destroyed, a significant portion of it survived, especially in the Southeastern  Brazilian States of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Espirito Santo.  The Mbyá were still able to carry on their nomadic lifestyle, traveling on foot for hundreds of miles from one Mbyá village to another, hunting animals and collecting honey, fruits and herbs in the forest. That all changed in the 1970s, when funding from international agencies allowed the construction of the Transamazonian Highway of the Southeast, which opened the heart of that surviving remnant of the Mata Atlântica.

At that time, the international agencies that had funded the road construction also provided funding for the creation of nature reserves and national parks as compensation for the rainforest destruction caused by the road. Instead of being demarcated as indigenous territory, the rest of the Atlantic Rainforest was declared “uninhabited” and designated as a strict conservation area—being considered as one of the world’s “hotspots” of biodiversity, and Brazil’s most endangered ecosystem. As a consequence, since the 1980s the Mbyá have nearly totally lost access to their highly diverse environment, and their long-distance movements are no longer possible. For that reason, today most of the about 3000 Mbyá have become “conservation refugees”: they must live in small villages at the edge of cities or close to roads, without enough land to plant their traditional staple crops and without access to the rainforest. They depend on governmental food packages and the production and selling of handcraft to tourists. In this way, the situation in the Southeast of Brazil is completely different from that of indigenous peoples in continue reading–>

Worlds of Difference: Local Culture in a Global Age

Credit: Jonathan Miller

The “Worlds of Difference” radio series was produced by Homeland for national broadcast on public radio stations in the USA. It used both radio and the internet to generate awareness of how people with strong local traditions are responding to the pressures and opportunities of rapid cultural change. continue reading–>

Strengthening Culture and Conservation Through Intangible Heritage and Performing Arts: The “Dance for the Earth and for Her Peoples” Initiative

credit: Robert Wild

The concept for the “Dance for the Earth and for Her Peoples” initiative originated at the 2003 World Parks Congress and has been taken forward by the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP) through the Theme on Indigenous and Local Communities, Equity and Protected Areas (TILCEPA) and the IUCN Task Force on the Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas (CSVPA. The objective of this initiative is to explore the role of community performing arts in strengthening the conservation of biocultural diversity, especially in Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs). continue reading–>