Deceptively delicate in appearance, the finely woven, lightweight jigras created by members of Artesanías Koreguaje Pairepa are as fastidiously crafted as a section of lace—only these elaborate items are far more durable. As tough as fishermen’s nets but as ephemeral as spiderwebs, the bags, hammocks, and other woven items are designed to satisfy the many needs of everyday life. This at once useful and artistic knowledge is passed from generation to generation of families belonging to the Koreguaje ethnic group of central Colombia. Here, artisans use fibers from the cumare palm, which is native to this dense, jungle-like region.
Oftentimes, shoulder bags are remarkably elaborate, and depend upon multiple community members for their realization. Items are crafted entirely by hand, with the same tools that have been used by the Koreguaje people for generations. Initially, of course, the cumare must be harvested, then boiled and rinsed. After a drying period of several days, fine strands are singled out for weaving, a process in which the artisan uses a highly specialized knotting technique. Each item takes two to four days to complete, depending on the size and type of item produced.
Today, these elaborate yet wholly functional items perpetuate tribal knowledge with their usefulness and their re-telling of the complex histories and customs of the Koreguaje people.