Co-creation between the Iku community and TdS, Working together for over 4 years
The Iku, Ikas, or Arhuacos, as they are commonly known, are one of the four indigenous communities, the four guardians, that inhabit “Nivi Umuke,” the name they give the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in their own tongue, located between the departments of Magdalena, Cesar, and La Guajira (Colombia – South America).
This place, triangular in shape (or heart-shaped, depending on your perspective), is the tallest coastal mountain system on the planet. It rises from the Caribbean Sea to snowy peaks over 5,000 meters up. These conditions make Nivi Umuke a scale replica of earth, which is how it is seen by the Iku people, who care for their home as though the wellbeing of the entire planet depends on it.
The craft of weaving is fundamental to their culture, and they believe life itself to be a fabric that each person creates and weaves together with the community. “Nothing is unattached in the world, everything is woven together, we shape the world in unity,” says Oliverio Villafañe, an Iku with whom we have worked for over 4 years.
Their worldview is embodied by their weaving, especially in the tutu (“bag” in the Iku language). Every figure woven into a tutu represents something. Nothing is woven in vain, just as in life. The tutu also represents the female uterus that holds everything, the universe itself, and that begins with the first stitch and expands as it spirals outwards.
Every stich, every turn, every figure, carries deep meaning, making each image a written expression of the worldview of the Iku culture (which was originally based on a rich oral tradition). Every woven symbol is a visual message and a vibration: an invitation to equilibrium.
The creative power of each weaver is also a fundamental element of the craft of weaving tutus, as every woven figure, the colors used, the patterns and combinations chosen, arise from the creativity and thought of each woman. The images represent an idea, repeated once and again to conserve tradition, like a repetitive graphical mantra that opens up connections to the spiritual and ritual worlds.
The colors used traditionally for the tutus are white, black, brown, and gray, the natural colors of the sheep’s wool they raise themselves on their land. The choice of how to combine and use these colors depends solely on each woman’s creativity.
Therefore, a tutu is not simply a handicraft: it is a living object that speaks about the Iku culture, that brings meaning to their lives, and that is part of the harmonious balance between human beings, nature, and their connection to the divine.
With this article we wanted to share a little bit of the history behind the objects woven by the Iku and their symbolic value and pay tribute to all the gwatis (“women” in the Iku tongue) that weave these items that become Tigres de Salón.