WOOL of the ANDES
In most Northwestern Argentina, the indigenous Andean culture keeps shining through a vibrant heritage of ancient traditions, mainly in the provinces of Jujuy and Salta. One of the essential traits of this region is the cultural richness represented by the art of weaving, a major art considering the mastery of the materials and the profusion of color and traditional design. In this region, llamas and vicuñas provide the raw fibers for textile production, fostering further the evolution of artisanal weaving practices that identifies a culture that refused to vanish — bearing witness of a unique, prolific world.
With the mission to enhance the textile potential of the Northwest region of Argentina (NOA), BIOPHILIA is organizing a textile network with a series of communities in the Quebrada de Humahuaca and the Puna Jujeña, the two Northernmost regions of the country. The goal is to create new opportunities of sustainable labour and genuine employment, while revitalizing ancestral weaving techniques through a series of strategic alliances that allow to transform a latent potential into a productive driving force. The Wool of the Andes project will contribute to consolidate a diversified production and will generate in the short, medium and long-term, a dynamic flow to commercialize local textile products, while empowering commercial ties between rural communities and enhancing the role and rights of women within the region.
BIOPHILIA’s first textile project in the NOA region is being developed with the community of Chalala, three kilometres away from Purmamarca. In this small village BIOPHILIA will build and start up a weaving factory with a strong local identity. In line with BIOPHILIA’s vision and mission, the project will contribute to create commercial exchange opportunities between llama and vicuña fibre suppliers from the Puna and the weavers from the Quebrada de Humahuaca. In order to enrich the project, BIOPHILIA has consolidated a strategic alliance with Asociación Warmi Sayajsunqo (persevering women, in Quechua) an organization of kolla women founded by Rosario Quispe that works to generate projects of development within several rural communities of the Puna region. Among other ventures, the Asociación Warmi has created its homonimous weaving factory , which produces yarns of llama fibre, sheeps wool and a mix of both. Thanks to the alliances with Warmis and other local fibre suppliers, the Chalala weaving factory will generate quality textile products with a high added value reflecting local identity through innovative design. To make this possible, BIOPHILIA fosters an active interaction between the community and specialized fashion designers with a contemporary vision and experience in different fashion markets.
One of the distinctive qualities that makes BIOPHILIA a key player with a unique added value, is the Foundation’s ability to generate fresh opportunities of commerce upon the Principles of Fair Trade, thanks to a dynamic platform that connects ethical organizations and companies with rural communities. Besides the llama and sheep wool, BIOPHILIA is developing a specific project on the vicuña fibre, considered to be the finest and most exquisite in the world. The vicuña is a small camelid typical of the Andean region, anciently referred to as the Queen of the Andes. This species was honored and protected since pre-Hispanic Age, when hunting was forbidden and the animals and its wool were Gods and Kings’ exclusive property. The dwellers of the Puna assure that the vicuñas are the Pachamama’s cattle looked after by Coquena, a mythical deity that protects the animals of the mountains. The vicuña is enlisted as vulnerable species and it’s internationally protected by the Appendix II of the CITES (Convention International Trade Endangered Species).
|The vicuñas shearing is possible only every two years, to allow the fiber to regenerate and to limit animal stress. According to the international laws that allow the sustainable exploitation of the vicuñas wool, the rural communities must previously monitor and census the animal population within their territory. Only then, the community is required to submit a management and conservation plan demonstrating that terms and conditions for a sustainable exploitation are respected. BIOPHILIA promotes this sustainable practices allowing both the conservation of this fragile species and the exploitation of its wool. Besides fostering the preservation of biodiversity, BIOPHLIA’s Wool of the Andes project significantly contributes to strengthen local economies, limites rural depopulation and creates new labor and employment opportunities for the rural communities of the Puna and the Quebrada de Humahuaca. .|
Llama and Vicuña wool