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Architect Tilak Samarawickrema’s photographic exhibition on the weaving traditions of Guatemalan women, documented in 1990 whilst working in Guatemala as a UNICEF consultant.

The hand woven textiles of Guatemala are synonymous with the country’s culture. Textile weaving has been a traditional occupation of the indigenous Guatemalan women for centuries, and continues to be so in the rural areas. The indigenous women are the custodians of their culture. Withstanding tremendous socio- economic pressures, they continue to maintain, preserve and express their cultural and regional ethnic identity, primarily through their attire. They weave to clothe themselves and their families. Today it is also an indispensable income-generating activity, and to some (widows of violence), the sole source of income.

In the highlands of Central America, ringed by volcanic mountains the women of Guatemala carry on a tradition of weaving and textile making that can be easily traced to their Mayan heritage.

Their colorful linear patterns and fringes can be found in relief carvings that date back to 600 AD. The diverse design patterns and colors also depict their regional identity.
They weave on a backstrap loom that is native to the Americas and their specific colors and patterns have been associated with the regions of Guatemala for centuries.

Hand woven textiles are synonymous with the culture and craft traditions of women in Guatemala. Due to the demands of child care and other domestic tasks the women could dedicate only one to three hours per day for weaving.

In 1986 UNICEF began sponsoring projects for a small number of women to help raise their standard of living by reintroducing traditional weaving. By 1990, over 5000 women had become part of the Guatemalan textile program assisted by UNICEF.

Hand weaving by rural women of Guatemala, not only serves a practical purpose to clothe themselves and their families, but also it is an indispensable income generating activity.
For some it is the sole source of income.

Date:    July 11, 2015
Time:    10 am to 4 pm
Venue:  UNICEF office Colombo, 3/1, Rajakeeya Mawatha, Colombo 7

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