Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Chumpi Kurti (Belt) with Birds



Chumpi Kurti (Belt) with Birds


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.

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 this and two 20th century Bolivian 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.

The belt with purple is more traditional in that such bird motifs originated in the pre-Hispanic period and the muted, carefully arranged stripes continue the age-old use of natural dyes. Yet, this 21st century belt was woven exclusively for sale rather than for local use, demonstrating that the market does not necessarily change all features of textiles.

Geographic Area

South America, Bolivia, Department of Oruro, Province of Aboroa, Qaqachaka


21st century


Alpaca fiber

Credit Line

Anonymous loan

Accession Number


Photo Credit

Photo by Michael McKelvey, 2017

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