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Cusco Center for Traditional Textiles
The artisans who weave these bags are members of the Cusco Center for Traditional Textiles (CTTC), an organization established in 1996 to aid in the survival of Peruvian Inca textiles and weaving traditions. The women are traditionally the weavers and begin as very young children hand-spinning yarn on a drop spindle. Then they begin learning the ancient art of intricate weaving, with a complementary warp technique producing a double-faced pattern which is the same both front and back with opposite colors. As the young weavers practice over many years, the traditional designs are masterfully committed to memory and recorded in the weave itself. The soft and strong fibers are from the alpaca and sheep retain their original oils so they resist soiling. The natural dyes are extracted from flowers, roots, insects and barks. Almost lost, the CTTC has worked to recover the ancient patterns and dyes.
Ch'uspa is a Quechua word meaning purse or bag. Men and women have used ch'uspas in their different forms for more than 2,000 years. Some highly decorated ch'uspas are used only for special occasions, as part of the dancers' costumes during festivals. Others are simpler in style and are used primarily by men to carry coca leaves. Both men and women use a smaller ch'uspa to carry money. Men are rarely without their ch'uspas, which are finely woven and often have a separate supplemental pocket for llipta, the lime ash catalyst that activates the alkaloids in coca. Quechua clothing lacks pockets and not all ch'uspas have these special small pockets.
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