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The Interweavings of Life in Oaxaca

Explore Ubuntu Market’s colorful trip to Mexico in search of tapestries from local artisans

by Genevieve Kim

August 2, 2018


The Weaver
Breasts of tender cotton
in the shadow: she spins.
Corridor cool as coconut water in its belly,
a swarm of threads anchor on the frame
held there by crickets and dreams,
warm southern fan upon its face
a silver needle always crisscrossing
the silk of my memories. Natalia Toledo, Zapotec poet

The state of Oaxaca in Mexico is full of vibrant indigenous culture, with nearly half of its residents identifying as indigenous. Tradition is ubiquitous in all parts of life, found in the slow-tempered pace of life, the aromatic flavors of mezcal and mole, the sights of wooden carts and cars moving in tandem, the inspiring art and artists, and the craftsmanship of artisanal goods. Beautifully woven textiles are perhaps the most notable of the artisanal riches of the city. The tradition of weaving dates back to pre-Hispanic civilization, and still maintains a stronghold in the daily culture and folklore of the area.

For the Zapotec people, who are among the more well-known indigenous cultures in the region, handwoven textiles are artifacts of a collective memory of our interconnectedness. Thread by thread, color by color, intricate patterns emerge to tell stories of the grace and magic that exist in the most intricate tapestry of all: life itself.

Ubuntu Market, created by members and collaborators of The Assemblage, was born amidst the energy of the Oaxacan artisanal markets. From these markets, Ubuntu has helped light up The Assemblage with colorful artifacts, including small ceramic cups, intricately woven blankets, and adornments for the bookshelf. In search of more beautiful telas (textiles), Ubuntu traveled to the workshop Telar de Algodón, led by weaver artist Sergio, and watched the weavers work the strings of their looms into magical pieces of art.

The photos here are an homage to the timelessness of the indigenous traditions and the beauty of the weaver’s craft — to entwine memories into the fabric of our lives.

Workshop labyrinth
Pulse of the workshop
Weaver + his tools

Weaving is the connection that is missing. The connection
between people and themselves, people and nature.
Lucy R. Lippard, "Spinning the Common Thread"

Architecture, dimensions, strings and portrals of the weave