Preserving Peru’s Artisanal and Cultural Heritage in the Lurín District
One woman’s visit to the Lurín district of Lima, the birthplace of the region’s artisanal crafts.
By Visit.org ambassador Jenny Patsy
I want to talk about my first experience with an artisan’s initiative Ichimay Wari in Lurín, Peru. The community-based cooperative is situated in the suburbs of Lima and is an association of artisans mainly from Ayacucho, who settled in Lurin during the 80s to escape the terrorism plaguing the region. The association has dozens of workshops that specialize in textiles, ceramics and altarpieces.
Getting to Lurín
At first, my goal was to get to Lurín by myself. I quickly realized that it wouldn’t be that easy, since nobody seemed to know how to get there. After asking a bunch of folks (bus drivers, policemen, taxi drivers, people in the street), I was able to catch a colectivo to Panamerica and then transfer to Lurín.
Once I arrived, I reached out to the org representative, Mr. Emilio Fernandez, a very friendly guy, who was in charge of giving me a tour of five different workshops.
I met up with one of the artisans and she explained her job to me. She starts by dying the wool. She says that she goes to the mountains by herself to seek and collect natural dyes to color the balls of wool.
Then, she explained how she makes patterns with the weaving loom. It is a process that requires several days or even weeks of work, depending on the weave’s size. The final product demands a lot a patience and precision but the result is incredible! This artisan is also a skilled embroider!
When I was in Cusco, I saw tons of ceramics and retables offered in stores (I wish I could bring some home). I was so excited to meet the people who do this job and to learn about the fabrication process.
Next, I visited four ceramic workshops where I learned about the different steps:
– First, the creation of plaster molds (a step that requires a lot of imagination, time and know-how. However, the molds can be reused thousand of times afterwards)
– The raw material is red, as it is a mix of water and argile
– By putting argile in molds, one can design characters, accessories, objects…
– Then she dries out the molded pieces for several days in the open air
– Once it’s dry, she bakes them in the kiln
– Finally, she paints ceramic objects with colorants (natural or artificial depending on orders)
The different steps in pictures
After visiting workshops you can go eat in a local restaurant or if you are more than 10 people you can share a Pachamanca, a traditional meal from the Andes (vegetarian options available).
After eating, you can create your own ceramic object. Definitely a great souvenir of this amazing day!
The crafts market
It has become increasingly difficult to sell the Peruvian crafts, whether ceramic or textile, because of globalization and modernization. Ichimay Wari sells the crafts in Lima, domestically, but also internationally via the Intercrafts Peru, a cooperative that promotes Peruvian handcrafts by establishing fair trade. But since the economic crisis, the demand for these crafts in western Europe has significantly decreased.
Get yourself to Lurin, meet artisans, familiarize yourself with their work and get involved in a workshop that helps showcase local crafts. And afterwards, spread the word!
This day was amazing and I felt privileged to have behind-the-scenes access. I wasn’t familiar with ceramic work before and I learned a lot in a single day. I think this tour could be of interest for a great number of people, young and old, and I highly encourage you all to try it out. However, you do need a Spanish background because nobody speaks English in Lurin. But while my Spanish level was very basic, I made out very well so you don’t necessarily have to be bilingual.
Check out Visit.org to learn more about Ichimay Wary!