Nilda Callañaupa
2024

Nilda Callañaupa

Master Weaver

weaving traditions into the fabric of tomorrow

meet nilda

Nilda Callañaupa is a Peruvian master weaver who founded and directs the Center for Traditional Textiles (CTTC) of Cusco, Peru. Born and raised in the village of Chinchero, Peru, Nilda grew up learning weaving from her mother. She realized the importance of maintaining this ancient Inca tradition not only to celebrate their vibrant culture—using the ancient patterns and natural materials and dyes in the local production—but also to significantly bolster the local economies. Today, the CTTC weavers are based in 12 villages outside of Cusco, where they produce an exquisite array of weavings sold at their museum in Cusco, as well as by the National Textile Museum in the US and other craft-based businesses around the world. Her textile explorations and documentation have taken her to villages across the Andes and beyond Peru.

Nilda, who holds a master’s degree in tourism, has presented on the work of the CTTC weaving internationally, and she had the major exhibit and demonstration at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival for their Peru exhibit. She has produced a number of photo-driven books on weaving and needlework in the Andes, which have been translated into English. They are available for purchase on Amazon.

weaving traditions into the fabric of tomorrow
Nominated by: Rebecca Martin, FN'02
Class of 2024 Location Peru
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In a rapidly changing world marked by swift trends and evolving consumer habits, global influences are driving a swift decline in Indigenous Andean textile traditions. The unique, handcrafted textiles of local highland communities in Peru are being rapidly replaced by cheap, mass-produced synthetic alternatives, rendering the traditional craft of weaving obsolete in many indigenous areas. This shift poses a significant threat to the Peruvian identity, as weaving has been a central aspect of Andean cultures, especially for young people, for centuries.

To address this cultural loss, I established the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco (CTTC) to engage, teach, and inspire youth to take up weaving and carry this important practice into the future. Through our center, we teach weaving, spinning, natural dying, and the significance of traditional clothing from an early age, inspiring the next generation to reclaim and preserve these dying traditions.

“Encouraging a shift in global perspectives, my hope is that more people worldwide will recognize the value of supporting natural textile producers. This support not only sustains traditional practices but also safeguards minority cultures, ensuring the continuation of rich traditions and distinct cultural identities.”

- Nilda Callañaupa

Over the past three decades, the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco (CTTC) has made a substantial impact in communities around Cusco, Peru, and across South America. Beyond cultural preservation, the project has also contributed to generating income for weavers’ families, allowing them to remain in their communities while continuing their weaving traditions. This financial support plays a crucial role in keeping cultural traditions vibrant and alive.

The mission extends beyond local communities, aiming to educate new generations of Peruvians and Andean peoples about the significance of preserving language (Quechua), weaving traditions, and traditional clothing. The goal is to maintain cultural identity for posterity and emphasize the importance of wearing clothing crafted from handmade, natural textiles instead of opting for mass-produced, synthetic “fast fashion.”

Encouraging a shift in global perspectives, my hope is that more people worldwide will recognize the value of supporting natural textile producers. This support not only sustains traditional practices but also safeguards minority cultures, ensuring the continuation of rich traditions and distinct cultural identities. The generosity of individuals and organizations plays a pivotal role in supporting these entrepreneurs and sustaining cultural and environmental preservation projects.

never stop exploring

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