Mama Mochila bags are crafted only from handspun wool. Spinning wool is an important part of the mochila making process. It symbolizes an integral aspect of Arhuaco culture, unity with the spirit of mother nature.
It takes several weeks to spin enough yarn to create one bag. The wool is washed in a river without soap and dried on large stones. The fleece is sorted to select the cleanest and longest strands for spinning.
Arhuaco women stretch and separate the wool by hand to yield exceptionally fine and strong yarn. This skill is passed down through generations. Next, the fiber must be spun into yarn.
An huso, above, is the traditional spinning tool. In the image below, you can see the transformation of wool. It begins with raw sheep’s wool on the far left. Clean fiber is then spun into a single strand and finally into a double strand.
The carrumba, below, is the tool used to spin the fiber into a double strand. It requires two people to work together simultaneously and encourages collaboration and interdependence.
The Arhuaco word for mochila is tutu. It takes over a month to complete one mochila. In Arhuaco culture, mochila making reflects a woman’s journey from girlhood to womanhood to motherhood. Girls are taught as toddlers to spin wool and begin to make their first mochilas between ages five and seven. Watch the video below to see the process first hand.
Each tutu carries its own design and meaning. Mochila making is considered a form of reflection and meditation for the Arhuaco people. Symbols with names such as a “man’s path” and “woman’s thoughts,” illustrate this. Some symbols integrate nature and include river snails, birds and mountains.
Once the body of the bag is complete, the strap is woven.The strap is called ghasa. No two straps are the same. Incorporating colors and patterns allow for endless combination in the design. Blasina introduces the weaving technique in the video below.
It takes a decade for Arhuaco women to master this craft. Mama Mochila supports the commitment of Arhuaco communities to this tradition. We encourage women to continue to spin all wool by hand and preserve the complex symbols they inherited from their ancestors.