06.11.-09.11.2023 Time for a cultural exchange!
Third week of work: Studio Doro Seror
At the third working week we visited Doro Seror's house and studio, a beautiful little house near Tutzing. Early in the morning we met at Tutzinger train station for a short visit to nearby Lake Starnberg. The Mayan weavers marveled at the views of the Alps, the lake's crystal clear waters, and the peaceful surrounding forests, and were grateful for the opportunity to be in nature. In Doro's studio we first had a session to exchange experiences, feelings and insights about what we have experienced so far in the project. It was an emotional session where we discovered that this project is more than just a professional responsibility for us, but also allows us to build deep relationships with special people.
For all of us, this project represents a safe space in which we as women have found solidarity, support and empathy for the challenges that come with being a weaver and artist in the modern age.
The Mayan weavers commented that this project was eye-opening for them, as they did not imagine that there were other weavers in Europe who survive and resist by keeping their textile traditions alive. The Mayan weavers mentioned that this motivates them to “step out of their little bubble” and learn from the struggles in other parts of the world. The German weavers commented that through this project they learned to appreciate their work more and to be more proud of their skills and techniques. Sylvia W. mentioned that she has rediscovered the magic and love for her work and sees them not as products commissioned by clients, but as artistic pieces that deserve respect. Wally added that she learned a better understanding of protecting intellectual property rights from the Mayan weavers. In the future, Wally would like to protect more of her textile techniques and be proud of her own achievements.
After a thorough discussion, we had a space where Doro performed a special ceremony of healing and gratitude. After the ceremony and lunch, Doro taught us four textile techniques using nearly no technical equipment. Unlike Wally and Sylvia's techniques, this time we had more freedom to use our hands, express ourselves with our bodies and feel more relaxed with the material. Doro conveyed to us the energy with which she weaves pieces from recycled materials with her own hands. In this way she also fights for the environment and transforms “garbage” into art.
Text and pics by Sofia Gonzàlez
30.10.-02.11.2023 Time for a cultural exchange!
Second week of work: Werkstatt Wally Münzhuber
In the second week of the project we visited the studio of our team member Wally Münzhuber. We were fascinated by the different types of looms Wally has in her studio. Among them was a card loom whose invention dates back more than four thousand years to Egypt. The Mayan weavers mentioned that it was a great honor to learn about the textile culture of other civilizations as they had never seen such a loom before, thereby keeping alive a tradition that is vital to another ethnic group be. Other techniques, not at all dissimilar to the backstrap loom of the Mayan weavers, could also be learned here. What was particularly important to us, is learning Wally's technique of weaving with recycled plastic. Wally's unique creations are born out from from her motivation to fight against environmental pollution caused by plastic waste. Over time, Wally managed to use used plastic bags to create a fabric on a special loom, giving this plastic a second life by transforming it into durable items of use such as wallets, backpacks, etc. The Mayan weavers were amazed by this technique and also by Wally's unique loom, as this loom creates a bag in an instant by creating two pieces of textile connected together. For the Mayan weavers, Wally's work is a great inspiration to carry out plastic recycling projects in their weaving schools in Guatemala. They want to teach the young people and their students textile techniques with plastic in order to improve the environment and to process existing material. www.wally-huber-kunststoff.de
23.-27.10.2023 Time for a cultural exchange!
First week of work: Damasthandweberei https://damasthandweberei.de/
From 23 to 27 October, we visited the studio of Sylvia Wiechmann Damasthandweberei. Sylvia is a master weaver who specialises in the creation of textiles by handlooms, using the damask and jacquard techniques. As we entered her studio, we marvelled at the different types of handlooms in the middle of the room. The looms stood before us like ancient and intimidating figures, which made us think how difficult they can be to use. With a lot of patience and joy Sylvia taught us the logic and mechanisms specific to each loom. The Mayan weavers were also delighted with the different types of materials Sylvia gave them to start working with, especially silk and wool. In Guatemala, the Mayan weavers use primarily cotton for the elaboration of all the pieces of their weavings.
After the Mayan weavers learned the basics of how to use the German looms, they began to experiment and use their own creativity.
Angelina, Maria Elena and Gloria Estela brought patterns from Guatemala to make Mayan designs. The challenge was to weave the Mayan designs using German looms, different materials such as silk and wool, and weaving techniques they did not know.
By the end of the week, the looms that at first intimidated us had become friends we loved meeting. Between sessions of laughter, inspirational talks and constant effort in weaving, we managed to make collective textile pieces.
The Mayan weavers also shared their knowledge with Sylvia, and taught her how to make some Mayan designs. They also brought cotton thread in bright and intense colours, which are generally used in ancestral Mayan textiles. Sylvia will now try to weave Mayan designs using German colours and techniques, to create a display piece for the final exhibition.
The Guatemalan designs try to show organic patterns inspired by nature, energies and life itself. The colour scheme presents a wide variety in more intense tones. Sylvia's designs, on the other hand, tend to show complex geometric patterns, letters, phrases and logos, generally in darker/neutral colours. As a final point of this week's cultural exchange, Maria Elena, who is a spiritual guide in her community, performed a Mayan ceremony to bless the WWWOW2 project. According to the Mayan cosmovision, before starting any project or activity, a ceremony is held to ask for the blessing of the Heart of the Sky, the Heart of the Earth and the ancestors (grandfathers and grandmothers). Protection is also asked for all team members and the materials to be used during the activities are blessed. Only specially trained spiritual guides are allowed to perform a Mayan ceremony.
Text and pics by Sofia Gonzàlez
26.10.2023 Lecture at the Institute of Ethnology of the LMU:
Indigenous Intellectual Property Rights
On 26 October, we were welcomed at the Institute of Ethnology of the LMU to give a seminar on indigenous intellectual property rights in the textile field, responsible solidarities and the objectives of our cultural exchange project. In relation to the interests and work of the Institute of Ethnology, this seminar was mainly a space for indigenous leaders and intellectuals to share their knowledge with academic and non-academic audiences. In this case, Angelina Aspuac, María Elena Curruchiche and Gloria Estela García, experts on Indigenous Intellectual Property Rights, were special guests who attended on behalf of the National Movement of Mayan Weavers of Guatemala.
Angelina Aspuac gave a brilliant presentation, beginning with historical contexts of the various dispossessions that indigenous peoples have experienced since the processes of colonisation. In particular, she analysed the racist and colonial discourse that affirms that it was the Europeans who invented clothes, because the indigenous people "were savages who lived naked". Through archaeological, ethnohistorical and anthropological evidence, Angelina Aspuac demonstrated the invalidity of this discourse, and shared with the audience how indigenous peoples had their own (and complex) textile production systems. She demonstrated how in the Western design industry, indigenous patterns and designs are plagiarized and commercialized and marketed for profit without the indigenous creators benefiting.
As a second part, Guatemalan anthropologist Sofia Gonzalez gave a presentation on responsible alliances, reflecting on how non-indigenous people can show solidarity with the struggles of Mayan weavers. During this section of the seminar, de-colonial approaches and non-material extractivism (epistemological, ontological and academic) committed through performative allyship were discussed.
Multidisciplinary artist and weaver Doro Seror, closed the seminar by presenting our cultural exchange project. Doro shared an important message about the intentions of our project, in which German weavers and Mayan weavers will exchange knowledge, textile techniques and life experiences as craftswomen and artists. She pointed out the situation of local handweavers who have to fight to ensure that handweaving remains a skilled trade and that appropriate prices can be achieved for their products on the market.
All participants in this project strive to publicize issues such as plagiarism, expropriation and the right of every weaver to protect her textile art. by Ana Sofia González (and Doro Seror)
24.10.23 Visit to the Augsburg textile and industry museum/
Staatliches Textil- und Industriemuseum Augsburg TIM
Pics by: Katharina Timner, Doro Seror, Sofia Gonzàlez, 2023
On Tuesday 24th October we had a group excursion to the TIM Museum in Augsburg. We were honoured to have a personalised tour by the museum director Karl Borromäus Murr. During the tour we were able to learn about the history of textiles, from the procurement of raw materials (such as cotton, linen, silk and wool), the production of textiles on different types of looms, the different types of dyed and printed fabrics, to the final assembly of the textile products. However, the richness of this tour lies in the appropriate critical analysis of the growing textile industry. Among all the valuable discussions, one important theme stand out:
The role of women throughout the textile industry
The case of Augsburg is a valuable example that portrays the harsh reality of women in the textile industry. According to the TIM Museum's research sources and historical references, from the very beginning the textile industry was shaped under a patriarchal system, where it was the men who held the most important positions: they were merchants, bankers, textile engineers, expert weavers, heads of the local weaving councils, among others. Women, on the other hand, were in charge of taking care of the household, raising children and lowly textile tasks such as warping yarn or collecting and processing raw materials to create textile fibres. Even children were involved in these tasks, paving the way for the normalisation of child labour. As the textile industry in Augsburg grew, it was decided to adopt "more equitable" policies that guaranteed women access to employment and wages. However, these policies were merely an expansion of the exploitation of women's labour, as the jobs available to them were hard and poorly paid. Some women resorted to prostitution to earn extra income to support their families. Although the percentage of jobs for women increased, so did the female mortality rate and the infant mortality rate.
During this space for reflection, Mayan weavers and German weavers shared their experiences of how difficult it remains to be a woman in the textile industry. However, they continue to strengthen their support networks with other women and participate in projects that promote women's empowerment in the field of weaving. Due to the historical contexts of gender inequality in the textile industry, it is necessary to continue to invest in education and employment opportunities for women weavers. Today, Mayan women weavers and German women weavers represent figures of experience, wisdom, and leadership in their communities, and it is they who continue to keep alive an ancestral art. by Sofia Gonzàlez