The Wayúu is the native Indigenous group, that lives in the departments of Guajira (northern Colombia), and Zulia (northwest Venezuela), on the Caribbean Coast. There are over 140,000 Wayúu people in Colombia, and over 290,000 in Venezuela. In Colombia they represent approximately 20% of all Indigenous tribes, and almost half of the department of Guajira is inhabited by Wayúu. In Venezuela, they represent almost 60% of the Indigenous population of Venezuela. The Wayúu people have inhabited this part of the world for over three thousand years, living a nomadic life before any political boarders were established.
The Wayúu language, called Wayuunaiki, is part of the family of the Maipuran (Arawak) language. The Wayúu word itself means person or people. Community relationships are one of the strongest characteristics of this ethnic group. Wayúu people are excellent storytellers. One of their fundamental deities is Mareiwa, who is considered the goddess of the rains and water, and is defined as creator of life and wisdom. She is also a personification of female protection: Wayúu culture tends to be matriarchal.
Women through their weavings are main supporters of their families. The knowledge passed from generation to generation take amazing shape in hands of Wayúu women. They weave numerous patterns in a variety of techniques, forms and colors.
Women use one or two threads of string, taking them up to 3 weeks, to crochet and weave every single bag, that they called mochila (Carmen Bag and Estela Bag). Weaving is the way a Wayúu tells her story, and describe her dreams. It is also the hand-woven reflection of their daily lives.
Geometric patterns on the pieces they make are called Kanaas. They are an interpretation of nature, and everything that everyday life represents. Each and every Kannas has its own name and significance. Knowing the art of weaving patterns, is highly respected within the community. Owning many hand-woven accessories shows authority, and inspires great respect within the community.
Examples of Kannas
Fun fact: Wayúu people believe that their weaving skills come from the Waleker (the weaver spider).