Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Chumpi (Belt) with Horse and Llama Motifs
Chumpi (Belt) with Horse and Bird Motifs



Chumpi (Belt) with Horse and Llama Motifs
Chumpi (Belt) with Horse and Bird Motifs


Belts of many different kinds were used throughout the Andes well before the Inka and continue to be an accessory for indigenous men and women today. Being narrower than other garments, belts are one of the first items that Andean girls learn to weave. Belts are called chumpi in Quechua and huaka in Aymara.

These representative modern Andean examples were made in the 20th century. When the Spanish entered the Americas, they preferred tapestry woven pieces in which the wefts carry the pattern. The type of weaving that features the patterning in the warps then became more typical of local clothing. In these belts, adjacent warps of different colors are pulled to the front and pushed to the back as weaving progresses. This method is a perfect example of ayni or the value placed on reciprocity; the patterns are the same on both sides, but the colors reverse.

These red belts come from a Quechua-speaking region of Bolivia known for its detailed imagery of animals and people as well as its bright aniline-dyed colors. The second example contains the European-introduced horse alongside native llamas and birds. The horses have stylized manes and circles representing their hooves, whereas the llamas have longer bodies, shorter legs, and horizontal squares representing their feet.

Geographic Area

South America, Bolivia, Department of La Paz, Province of Bautista Saavedra, Charazani


20th century


Camelid fiber

Credit Line

Gift of Lee and Nancy Lovvorn

Accession Number


Photo Credit

Photo by Bruce M. White, 2014

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