Aura Rosa Montero belongs to the Kankuama ethnic group, one of the four original peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. Taught by her grandmother to weave her people’s traditional backpack, for the past thirty years she has lead a group of 60 artisan weavers who make these bags.
For the Kankuama, the closed space of the backpack is a symbol of femininity and fertility. It represents the great cosmic mother, and ‘the beginning and the end of everything that exists’. This is why it is woven in a spiral shape and it is mostly women who make the backpack.
The bags are made from fique (a natural fibre that grows in the leaves of plants) which is grown and harvested in the region. After being washed and dried in the sun it is spun with a tool called carrumba which makes the fibre twist to form thin threads. Hanks of these threads are dyed with local plant and vegetable dyes, and then dried in the sun and shade depending on the desired tones, before they are used to weave the backpacks.
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