Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium (2004)


Presented at “Appropriation • Acculturation • Transformation,” Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, Oakland, California, October 7-9, 2004. Copyright 2004 Textile Society of America.


This article examines contemporary Peruvian tapestry in its historical context. Though tapestry production represents a significant source of income for weavers in Ayacucho, Peru, the contemporary industry has not yet been studied in the context of long-term Andean textile traditions and their historical transformations. Ayacucho is home to numerous crafts traditions, but also terrible violence during Peru’s undeclared civil war (1980–95), which started there. The paper provides an overview of contemporary Andean textiles, emphasizing differences between textiles woven on the pre-Hispanic type Andean loom, and those such as tapestry woven on the Hispanic-type treadle loom. The technology of Andean textile production (loom types, materials, yarn production, dyeing) is discussed. Andean tapestry is traced from its earliest appearances ca. 500 B.C., through its fluorescence in the Wari and Tiahuanaco empires, and the Inca empire, and production during the colonial and the little-known 19th century Republican period, with a focus on Ayacucho. The paper then analyzes Andean cloth today, especially forces leading weavers to stop making textiles. The final section presents a preliminary history of 20th century Ayacucho tapestry production, based on interviews with weavers and their family, and non-weavers involved in crafts development. It examines the work of individual weavers within social and political contexts in terms of violence and democracy in Ayacucho. The paper also examines how gender and race affect tapestry by analyzing the gendered division of labor in the tapestry industry, in which very few women weave, and the racism faced by weavers of indilgenous origin.