María Concepción Ospina Gómez comes from Cabo de la Vela, located in La Guajira, Colombia, a region her family has inhabited for centuries. Today, she is a community leader focused on preserving the heritage of the Indigenous Wayúu culture, one of the largest continuously surviving tribes in South America, and creating economic opportunities by training others in the arts of crocheting, weaving, and knitting through the Kayuusipaa cooperative
María describes the collective’s work with great passion: “Our crafts are the cultural basis of our community. Our art has been passed from generations to generations for centuries. Teaching how to weave and knit is a crucial part of the relationship between grandmother, mother and daughter, and sometimes sons. […] In our designs we symbolize our relationship with all creation. […] Our art unites us among our community and also creates bonds with the ‘outside world.’”
The repeating patterns used in the artisans’ designs combine ancestral Wayúu sacred geometry with contemporary colors and styles. Perhaps most emblematic of the group’s offerings is the mochila, a crocheted bucket bag. Thanks to their durable construction, they can be used to carry any number of items including a gorgeous pair of Kayuusipaa’s coordinating cotton and leather sandals.
The work of creating Kayuusipaa’s wares is intensive, and María’s discerning eye ensures all items are of the highest quality. The group’s ceremonial dresses, a crucial symbol and exclusively the work of women, are entirely hand embroidered. Depending on its complexity, one bag may take 45-90 days to complete. A hammock adorned with hand-crocheted fringe requires six months. No matter the item’s practical purpose, each handmade piece is imbued with the artistry, integrity, and perseverance of the Wayúu people, and to purchase such an item is to contribute to the survival of Wayúu traditions for generations to come.