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Arhuaca Bags

The mochila arhuaca (English: Arhuaca knapsack), or tutu iku, is a popular Colombian artisan bag made by the arhuaco people of the Sierra Nevada  In recent years, the bags have turned into a cultural symbol for Colombian identity.

Although the whole arhuaco community is involved in the production, only Wati (Arhuaco women) can weave the bags together according to custom. Traditionally, the women learn to weave from an early age by watching their mothers. The first mochila they make is given to the “Mamo”- the spiritual leader, for the rituals of the life cycle.

The bags usually carry indigenous drawings or representations of animals and other objects of their cosmology. Each design identifies families, some of the most important are the gamako (the frog), the symbol of fertility, the zikamu (the centipede), the Aku (the rattlesnake), which symbolizes time and space, the peynu (the comb), the kutia (ribs), kaku serankua (the creator of the father mountain), makuru (the vulture), gwirkunu (the hills and lakes), urumu (the snail), sariwuwu (the months of pregnancy), kunsamunu a'mia (the thought of women), kunsamunu cheyrua (mans thought), kanzachu (tree leaf), chinuzatu (the four corners of the world), kambiru (scorpion tail or scribble), phundwas (the snowy peaks of the Sierra mountain) and Garwa (the father of the roads)...

Kogi wisdom claims, “If it doesn’t fit into a mochila, it doesn’t fit in life.” These are words that resonate from the snow-capped plateaus of the Sierra Nevada and which have found followers on Bogotá streets. Just stroll La Candelaria and you’ll see many varieties of mochilas hanging from the shoulders of students and their teachers. We all know that books, like digital cameras, have a special place in one’s life and inside a soft pouch.

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