Oh! how much art has given me! Or how much I have given art. Throughout this time this intertwining game has been fun, self exploratory, soul opening, and a lot more. I am deeply thankful that I have had the chance to execute and produce art. At some point in my life, when I was a child and later on when I was working in humanitarian labor, I thought that maybe this was not going to be possible… in this life. Helping people has been a big passion to me, just like sharing my creativity, and so _I have said this before_ I thought that maybe doing both might not be possible. But life (and myself) have proven me wrong. So I am deeply thankful for having had a chance to play art, fashion, create The Global Dress Movement and much more. How joyous it has been!
The article and the poem below were written by Carola Solís and selected by Fashion Revolution for their fourth fanzine ‘Fashion Craft Revolution’ after a global selection. You can buy it here: https://www.fashionrevolution.org/ fashion-revolution-fanzine-library /? fbclid = IwAR2bYzFt4HVISYy7LQx5j67cE1ZiRe3MWKNK7KLsEnkDrc98Kfz7E87Fo8Q and in this way contribute to Fashion Revolution.
Women in Peru, how we are threaded.
I grew up in the Peruvian Andes, where all the folk bright colours shaped my taste for clothing but where really, most of the commercial clothing available was in the tones of grey, blue and black and sometimes red, or yellow if I was lucky. That, as a little girl represented oppression for me. Colourful clothing was used only for typical dances, or for “typical clothing” but not for everyday dressing, not in the cities.
Today, after 30 years, I can gladly say that I feel this is changing, we are connecting. Peru is reconciling with its diversity, or that is the feeling I get when I see native artisan fairs in the heart of Lima, our capital city, where artisans from all over Peru get to sell their art and even more when I see communities like the Shipibo Konibo being invited to events like ARCO, the Contemporary Art International Fair in Madrid or Olinda Silvano, its maximum representative and Meritory character of Culture, representing us at Casa Peru in Russia during the Soccer World Cup.
This is not only seen in the art world, but in fashion, where working with artisans and artists from our country is IN fashion. Various Peruvian designers such as Naty Muñoz, Qarla Quispe, Lourdes Chambi, Lici Ramirez, Anabel de la Cruz, Las Polleras de Agus, yours truly and many more, are contributing to re-create our identity, consume locally, export and transform stereotypes. The economy is changing for the artisans, it is changing for us, owners of small businesses, and it is changing the way we see ourselves, the way we see our clothing and the appreciation we have for the crafters of what is called Peruvian. It is allowing us not to only work together, grow as a nation, but to re-invent Peruvian attire, make it more modern, inclusive.
We, women who live in the cities (who in some cases are from rural areas too) and women from rural communities were apart for many generations but both had a thing in common: Women did not have access to personal income, depended on their male counterparts for money, and that is changing.
When I travelled to Tarapoto (some 28 hours road trip from Lima, 1 hour by plane) in order to present my “Peru, diverse country” collection, the Asociacion Amazonica, was keen and kind to take us to meet the Warmi Awadora (women knitters in Aymara), a project supported by the National Program for the Conservation of Forests for the Mitigation of Climate Change, which promotes that women are trained in economic activities such as textiles, so that they do not depend on forests and therefore protect them. After travelling from so far, Chirikyacu seemed close and easy to access, but it wasn´t, which shows reality and why we have been separated for so long.
But reality also shows we live similar realities. We need to look after our children, earn a living through an independent initiative and many times on top of that, help our husbands with the family business. When I hear stories from other sustainable clothing initiatives, these stories from women artisans are always the same and these are repeated when I talk to women designers with little children. This connection unites us, makes us more empathetic.
We designers learn that a simple piece in waist loom can take the work of up to two days without stopping and therefore end with waist pain. Artisans learn that selling is not an easy task at all, and that it involves much more than having a facebook page and beautiful pictures.
Which is why to hear Olinda Silvano say “When I grow, everybody grows” and viceversa is inviting and is true. And it was one of the reasons why I decided to portray her and her mother on a collection. I thought to myself: If we can have printed shirts with Madonna, why not Olinda? We can all be inspiring, we can all be stars. And most importantly, I get to wear the colours I always wanted to wear, the true colours of Peru.
I appreciate the fact I decided to connect with these women. It helped me to reconcile with my country and the world. To reconcile with myself and live in my own country (so far, I have enjoyed living in the Andes, the coast and the jungle). I have learned and understood that no matter where we are from or what we do, we are all ONE.
Threads of Peruvian Women
I let the threads and bright colours of my country shape my heart and soul.
But commercial – ism, made me turn onto gray and blue.
It was only when I rediscovered my colours, I could paint bright and pink.
And when I met Olinda, I knew my heart was green.
Then the Warmi Awadoras, explained the telar to me
And when they knitted my pieces, I could reveal my golden spine.
Spine? You would say?
Yes, I´d reply… My spine was harmed when I was younger. For I did not know where I stand or who I was.
I thought I was Guess and Levi´s
Or that wearing Madonna or Michael Jackson would make me bright
But really, what I needed was to portray my women on my skirts
To only see much after, that Olinda was much much brighter too.
It was 2012, I had already made the decision to _seriously_ embrace photography and so, I carried my heavy camera everywhere. We decided to go to Arequipa, where I had been in the nineties, but this time was different, I would have time to portray it to my liking. Arequipa has always seemed fascinating to me for several reasons: Because it allows me to dress in different ways depending on the time of day (at that moment of my life, I was beginning to _seriously_ explore clothes like walking canvasses). And because I felt like I could walk around the city as if it were Europe (at least that is the way I remember). Backpack on my back, dress and comfy shoes. I captured its sillar monuments, its flowers, its corners, its religious art and finally its sunsets. They have been my favorite days of exploring a city (especially because of the sun falling on the snowy, it is magical).
What does it mean for you to be Peruvian?
Smells of damp dirt of the Andes and a Pachamanca oven that was just opened; essences of honeysuckle and wild roses; intense colors of dancers costumes and golden mature crops; golden wheat textures and rough rocks; sensations of the highlands, extreme cold in the shade and burning heat under the sun; feelings of nostalgia for childhood, because everything changes and changes very quickly … all comes to me when I think about the question I posed to three women (two Peruvian and foreign). What does it mean for you to be Peruvian?
“When I think of Peru, I think of a tree, with many solid and strong roots, a land full of nutrients and then I feel that we Peruvians are the branches that need to recognize that history, cultivate the memory and engage with the rest, with absolutely all other Peruvians, weaving nets, weaving branches, growing a strong and powerful tree top where there is more life, more conscious life. Being Peruvian for me, goes through this: an origin, a union, a pride, a possible future for all, no more, no less … it’s time. We deserve it.”
During an interview a few months ago a journalist asked me how I managed to do it all. Doing it all: Having a home, a daughter, running a business which I share responsibilities with my husband and as the cherry on top, capture my creativity in my designs and bring it to the enterprise level. I replied: Organization, I organize and delegate. And it was true. At that time I could _apparently_ do everything. But it was also true that at that time I had only one daughter (And of course, the journalist had not seen my dark circles concealed by makeup, nor all the running around behind the scenes to be still with her at that moment).
As my husband says, women my generation want to do everything and we want to do everything right. He says: “You want to be a good mother, a good wife, a good artist / designer, and on the way to have a good spiritual and healthy life, be a good human being” … And yes, he is right. I want it all.
It has been more than a year since I launched my work and a year since we took the “Caleidoscopic Lima” collection to Washington DC. At the time, very few people understood why we took the collection to Washington, but now that the 2015 Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) https://www.2015lima.gob.pe/en/ has been held in Lima, it makes more sense to tell you about it.
After showing my work at Flashmode, I was approached by people from promPeru (Zulia, I am very thankful for having seen this in me) in order to work a collection that could be shown in Washington. The reason, the Governors meeting would be held here in Lima in 2015 and we needed to welcome them with an glimpse of what they would see here this year. So, it was great fun to gather all the material I already had and to add some more such as the Peruvian government palace (which I was delighted to shoot inside out) and Pachacamac and other sites and to portray in my walking canvas.
We all have something to live for, mine is to create, I create to be able to live. And getting to the creation of “Kaleidoscopic Colonial Lima” has meant the unification of my knowledge of Communication Sciences, Anthropology, Semiotics, Photography, Art and my research in digital printing techniques, pattern making and sewing, accompanied by perseverance, challenging myself constantly and understanding that even if we dream of being the best at something , we discover that we are only adding a little light to all the existing creations in the world.
One of my photographer friends once asked me how I had developed my photography, my eyes…
My simple answer is: I do not really know… All I know (I said to him) is that since I can recall, I just see the world in frames. I am framing what I see, almost ALL the time. And I frame almost everything… textures, shades, colours and mostly things / People / whatever that I find beautiful, which results also in me trying to surround myself of beautiful things.
I do not consider myself an expert (almost the opposite, really), nor a “professional artist” or nothing like that, I just find my practice of seeing things and portraying them, fascinating. And I love every second I spend portraying things that I find interesting or attractive, it feeds my soul, my heart, my eyes, my life. To me, every second I spend doing this exercise is worth a lifetime, and that is enough reward.