The Importance of Weaving

The Woman of Trama is a photo series made in the Western Highlands of Guatemala in the communities Pujujil, San Martín Sacatepéquez, Santa María de Jesús and Chirijox.

In these communities woman work for the organization of Trama Textiles, an NGO based in Quetzaltenango.
The organization was founded during the 36-year civil-war in responds to the destruction of Mayan culture by woman who lost a great deal of their family in the struggle.
People disappeared and never came back. Others were brutally murdered in front of their eyes.

Finding means to survive the woman relied on the ancient tradition of backstrap loom weaving. A tradition that goes back hundreds of years which combines craftsmanship ans cosmology.

Realizing the benefits of collaboration the organization was founded to strengthen and maintain their cultural heritage.
The designs and colors all have a meaning, they tell stories of their shared past and hard everyday life. But is also represents their spiritual beliefs, where the natural world is powerful and things are connected on a greater scale.

Although the peace accords were signed in 1996 the indigenous people, the biggest ethnic group of the country, are still being marginalized and many of them live in poverty.
The most vulnerable group are indigenous woman living in the highlands according to the UN World Food Program.
But with the help of Trama Textiles the woman are able to feed their families, maintain their cultural traditions, share their knowledge to other generations and sent their children to school.

Their colorful textiles are a visible proof of their existence.

Theresa takes care over her two grandchildren in Pujijil, because her daughter died in October 2012. She continuous the tradition of weaving and will pass it down to her grandchildren.

Catharina just started working with the group of woman who is working for Trama Textiles in San Martín Sacetepéquez. She is one of the youngest members, one of the new generation.

At the house of Isabel, the community coordinator for Trama Textiles in the village of Chirijox. Woman meet here for gatherings to organize their work.

Magdalena wears her cinta (hair wrap) and rebozo (scarf). How woman wear their rebozo they can tell if someone is married, single or a widow.

Juana, mother of 10 children, has an easily treatable fungus infection, but due to lack of resources she is not able to get treatment. The access to healthcare in the mountain areas is often limited.

The kitchen of Juanased in Pujujil. An important social place where family and neighbors come together in this cold mountain area. About eighty percent of the indigenous population lives in rural areas.

Fabiana is weaving a new huipil (blouse) in San Martín Sacatepéquez. To make a huipil can take up to three months. The figures often represent animals symbolizing a certain god. By Mayans also referred to as a nahual.

The sense of community is strong among the indigenous people. With the products the woman sell via Trama they are able to feed their families and send their children to school.

One of the two beds in the bedroom of Maria and her two daughters in Pujujil. Her house is surrounded by cornfields on a mountain slope. About eighty percent of the indigenous population lives in rural areas, where access to basic healthcare and education is limited.

In Santa María de Jesus they have just harvested their beans, a vital part of their diet. They also play a role in their spiritual life as in some communities they believe beans can portray the future.

In Chrijox the children got Christmas gifts from a donor, while the Christian religion has entered Mayan settlements, they believe humans are made out of corn, as is stated in their sacred text, the Popul Vuh.

Freshly washed clothes are drying in the sun, with in the distance a view of the lake Lago Atitlan. People here say it is the most beautiful lake of the world.

Woman get together to weave at the backyard of Amparo, the director of the organization of Trama Textiles. The language spoken here in San Martín Sacatepéquez is Mam, one of the twenty-two Mayan languages spoken in Guatemala.