Historias del Iberá

Hands on the cloth: Anahí


It’s a June afternoon. The women gather quietly. Some of them are accompanied by their children. They greet each other. Two kisses, one smile. The Ñande Reta’s quincho is ready to receive them. They sit at the labor tables. In the air an enthusiastic atmosphere expands among the walls. The looms are waiting for the artisan’s touch. The craftswoman begin their work by moving their fingers invoking an ancient technique that merges tradition and creativity.

The history of the looms dates back to thousands of years ago. It is believed that the first rudimentary looms appeared around 6000 b.c, in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. With time, this technique expanded through different cultures and civilizations, each one of them contributing variations to the process. The art of weaving had its own process in America. When the Spanish arrived to the New World, the local communities already dominated the work on looms and elaborated sophisticated designs. In some way it seems that the human beings in different parts of the world and of history seeked to warm themselves and to dress up using similar techniques.The Industrial Revolution in the XVIII century, came along with the mechanization of the textile industry. Yet, the artisan loom tradition was able to resist thanks to the weaver communities that preserved these skills transmitted by ancient generations.

In Argentinian Mesopotamian communities, the loom was used to produce individual clothings like ponchos, blankets, girdles, bags, among others, and also to create communitary looms in order to conform gathering spaces to share knowledge. In Ñande Retá women combine both purposes.

Inside the quincho Anahí gets settled. She smiles. Her eyes share warmth. Har hands start moving. First, she adjusts the longitudinal threads in the loom. By the way in which she stretches them I understand that they need to be tense in order to create a solid base to weave. Then, she prepares the transversal threads. She uses a needle and begins her work by passing over and below the threads, alternating the pattern and creating the first row. After each line she uses a kind of comb to squeeze the threads. She repeates the movement with innate knowledge. Once in a while she changes the thread’s color. With patience she intertwines textures in order to achieve a unique pattern.

As her piece of art reveals, it arises as well the glow of the ancient knowledge that manifests in her hands. Around her, a dozen women share the space united by an invisible network. Some laughs can be heard in the background. In Ñande Retá the artisan work with looms becomes a party. It is considered a form of artistic expression where artisans experiment with colors, designs, textures in order to create unique pieces. For these women and for the Ñande Retá community, looms are tools, a bond with history, a manifestation of creativity and a connection with tradition and art, an empowerment symbol and a source of national pride.