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María Concepción Ospina Gómez

The spiral-woven bags of the Wayúu

Brightly colored bags with woven straps, embellished with tassels are just some of the items of offer from María Concepción Ospina Gómez of Colombia, who is from the Wayúu ethnic group. Kayuusipaa—now comprising around 35 individual artists—was founded by Gomez in order to expand her business and also to serve other weavers, affording opportunity for financial security and creative expression. For years, Gomez and her fellow artisans have been producing richly hued accessories, clothing, and other items.

Perhaps most emblematic of the group is a bag called the “mochila”: vibrantly colored and intricately embroidered, the bags, whether slung over the shoulder or across the chest, are traditional to the region, and, thanks to their durable construction, can be used to carry any number of items. Constructed in myriad colors, hammocks made by the group are as sturdy as they are colorful. Wayúu tradition is woven throughout Kayuuispaa’s philosophy—one that hinges on an understanding of time as continuous and fluid; looking at the woven items from this perspective imbues them with added beauty.

Labor is shared among women and men, with the former typically crocheting the bag’s body and cords, and the latter using vertical looms to create the signature straps. The geometric, repeating patterning of Wayúu design have deep traditional meanings, and are also informed by the artisan’s natural environments; animals, flowers, and other elements all serve as major sources of inspiration for both design and color.