Hello again my good friends! Today I am writing from an unexpected location; Marrakech! Last month we talked about the “threads” that one follows through life, and how my own threads had led me all over the world, with this year’s destination being Turkey. There are times in one’s life in which one needs a refresh of ideas, and my strong curiosity for Turkish weaving piqued my interest to explore their textile culture. However, part of the beauty of allowing the threads of life to guide you, is that you never quite know where they will take you, and in my case they have unexpectedly led me to northern Africa! If anything this trip has opened my eyes to so many things, and reminded me of what is so special about my work back in my beloved Antigua Guatemala.
Upon arriving in Istanbul I was underwhelmed by the textiles I saw throughout the city. With a few exceptions, most of what I saw was the product of mass production. The Grand Bazaar, historically one of the most significant places to find artisanal goods, was really a copy paste of the same products. Again, there were definitely exceptions, and one still finds some exceptional textiles, but the dominance of these mass produced goods truly made me wonder if my guiding threads had led me astray. My excursion to the Anatolia region in the south-east proved more fruitful, but I could already see the commercially-driven culture that already permeates Istanbul, starting to creep in there as well. Undoubtedly these are all signs of progress and modernization, and one can only hope that the benefits to the local communities are tenfold. However, and perhaps as a natural consequence of progress, there is a noticeable impoverishment of the vernacular culture.
When I was in my early 20s I first traveled to Morocco. Back then I was just a wide-eyed girl exploring the world for the first time. I can’t exactly remember what I was thinking about back then, but I surely wasn’t traveling there with any set goal. This time around it was supposed to be the same thing; I saw the opportunity to see a place again that I thought I would never return to, and my reasons for going there were purely recreational. However, after visiting the souks of Marrakech I was absolutely blown away! Despite the noticeable progress and evolution the city has undergone since I saw it last, the vernacular culture is still thriving. The Berbers (term used to describe any of the descendants of the pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa) still produce some of the finest artisanal textiles I have seen to date, and their cultural heritage seems healthy and thriving!
In Guatemala, as is the case with much of Latin America, the rapid progress and modernization for the sake of monetary gain is threatening the vernacular culture of the land. Luckily, Latin America is blessed with healthy indigenous communities that safeguard their rich cultures. Guatemala specifically has many such communities that are fundamental to preserving the region’s heritage. However, part of the reason these communities are able to do so is because they keep themselves at a distance; both within the system and outside it. In such cases one needs to build a bridge that allows for the passage and exchange of ideas and serve as connectors between the modern world and these ancient customs. As I’m seeing today in Morocco, these bridges are of immense importance, and it has made me realize that my own practice, in its small way, is acting as such a bridge in Guatemala.
So, dear reader, today I invite you to join me in seeing Loom Tree as not just a business driven by profit, but as one such bridge through which a beautiful vernacular culture is being kept alive.