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Aurora Rodriguez de Caura

Wuwa, setu and jojo: baskets with indigenous heritage

Aurora Rodriguez de Caura was the first woman to leave Boca de Ninchare, a small village of 100 residents, to attend school. In the relatively rural area of Venezuela, this in and of itself is highly usual, especially since her schooling was at the insistence of her father. This independently minded woman eventually returned to her traditional village, where she began to work as an artist in earnest. She became president of the Kanwasumi Artisan Cooperative, where today she and over fifty other female artists individually hand weave wuwabaskets, burden baskets, and jojos, or round storage baskets—each with dazzling geometric patterning in muted, elegant tones of black and beige.

No tools are used except for knives and machetes. Newly harvested vines of various thickness are brought back to the village in large rolls, where an artisan splits the raw plant into strips of different sizes, each of which is scraped, then dyed using specific plant species. Once fibers are prepared, they are woven to create a basket, with each specialized artisan focused on a specific type of basket. These include two basic shapes: the traditional hour-glass wuwa, and round baskets called setu and jojo. Accomplished artisans rarely make the same design twice.

The designs range from subtle to elaborate, with images that include abstract geometric patterns, and also those embellished with animal figures like frogs, monkeys, and other forest creatures. One person is responsible for the entire basket, but each has their preferred colors, designs and range of sizes. The artisans represent different ages and skill levels. Some of the older women make only traditional baskets, for example, whereas others have evolved their own designs.