Museo de Arte Indigena

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Museo de Arte Indigena in a lovely old courtyard building on San Alberto.

This is run by ASUR, a not for profit organisation who promote weaving by local villages. There is a series of exhibition rooms and a shop selling woven goods. Unfortunately there is no information in English and guide books are just in Spanish. It makes sense to visit with a knowledgeable guide.

The first room is an introduction to the different ethnic groups in Bolivia with maps and colour photos. This is followed by a display of traditional costumes before you move into a series of rooms displaying weaving from the different areas of Bolivia.

The Jalq’a come from around the Potolo valley and their weaving always uses red and black, although different shades of red including purple may be used. The weaving is covered with different designs of all shapes and sizes. One had oxen ploughing, a man on horse back, frogs and an animal that looked like a kangaroo. Every piece is different. Many designs are inspired by dreams often fuelled by the use of hallucinogenic drugs. There is no written record of the different patterns. All are done from memory and passed down from mother to daughter.

Tarabuco designs are quite different. They are arranged in bands along the length of the fabric. The background is always white. Some bands are quite narrow with a single woven figure or bird, others are wider. The most stunning designs were in blues, turquoises and blacks. The different patterns all have names but their origins are lost in antiquity.

Traditionally weaving was done by women. ASUR is now encouraging men to weave using small square looms imported from Asia. They use a different technique and weave all of an animal before going back to fill in the rest of the fabric. This means they don’t weave in straight lines. They use synthetic dyes and produce small wall hangings to sell to tourists.

On the balcony was a Jalq’a woman weaving on a hand loom. It was fascinating watching her. Each thread had to be counted individually and a needle was used to separate the threads before the shuttle with thread was passed through. Having watched her at work we began to understand why the weavings for sale in the shop are so expensive.

Our guide had allocated 60 minutes for a visit. We took 90 minutes and would have liked longer. It was a fascinating, worthwhile and enjoyable visit. The weavings were beautiful but unfortunately you are not allowed to take photographs in the museum.

There is some information about the museum and textiles here:

There is information about ASUR here:

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