• Madeleine Komander


Weaving is an intricate part of the wayuu culture. Much like each woman’s face paint pattern, each mochila is unique.


That’s a term we frequently hear in the media these days, isn’t it? It has become very clear that several societies are striving for a world in which men and women have equal power and opportunities for financial independence, education, and personal development. And although we’ve made great progress, there’s still a long way to go.

We are set to think that to move forward we need to look straight ahead; come up with new ideas and solutions for whichever problem we might now be facing. But I couldn’t help but wonder… Whatever would happen if we looked backwards? By this, I don’t mean looking at what we have done wrong, but rather at what we’ve gotten right. We, the humankind. (That might sound deep and philosophical, but I believe it to be more simple than that.)

Modern societies have been revolutionised by ancient concepts such as Astronomy and even Democracy. 

So what if we took the example of a society that survived hundreds of years, inquisitions, cultural misappropriation, and even wars?

The Wayuu have learned to live in the desert, but it has not necessarily been easy.

In comes the Wayuu community.

For those of you new to the blog, the Wayuu is an indigenous ethnic group of the Guajira Peninsula in Colombia and Venezuela. They are part of the Arawak folk, that after great travelling throughout Amazonia, finally arrived at the Antillas, where they have been residing since 150 b.c. The desert they live in has proved to be both a blessing and a curse. It has served as a natural shelter, protecting the Wayuu from Spanish colonists and it has given them enough room to create a “state” in which they implement (to an extent) their own rules. And yet the droughts have complicated (to say the least) their water and even food supply. This group depends mostly on agriculture, the grazing of cows and sheep, and the weaving of the bags Müsü has to offer. 

Wayuu bags are the representation of Wayuu culture itself. Each Mochila tells a different story with its colours and patterns. But the true storytellers are the hands that put it all together. Women. If you´re looking for empowered ladies you needn't look further than the Guajira Peninsula.

The Wayuu descend from the female line: that means that children inherit their mother's surname, which is also a source of status and prestige in the clan. It is the women that care for the cultural continuity and harmony in the community. They set the example for current and future generations.

The Wayuu culture is complex and, most certainly, very unique. Like their women. These ladies are hard-working, strong, and self-sufficient. And yet they’re patient, delicate, and never vain. And like their women, are their bags: beautifully delicate, but strong and reliable.

Wayuu men can often be seen working in salt mines

It's all about balance.

Although this culture is matriarchal in nature, the division in roles between men and women does not place one above the other. It is undeniable that the whole group depends on the duties of both males and females. Men tend to be the ones to take care of hunting and farming. Many of them even work in local salt mines. Their work puts food on their family's table, which is fundamental for present survival. On the other hand, women look after their families and simultaneously, push to commit to the way of life, which is fundamental for future survival.

We see ourselves as part of the “new world”. With daily technological advances, modern western medicine, and politics, we seem to think that somehow we have the upper hand. And yet this ethnic group, that has had all odds against them, has managed to achieve what most of our societies keep on fighting for today still: Equality.


It seems utopic in a way, maybe even farfetched but if the Wayuu can make it happen, why can't we?

164 views0 comments