Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Lliklla (Woman’s Mantle) with Guitar and Olive Branch Motifs

Lliklla SEM Alpaca.jpg
LLiklla SEM llama.jpg


Lliklla (Woman’s Mantle) with Guitar and Olive Branch Motifs


Among the various detailed patterns in this woman’s shoulder mantle are three sideways guitar motifs (in the patterned stripe above the shawl’s center seam). Introduced by the Spanish, guitars are now also associated with Latin American music. The lute had had a long history in Europe and then, in 15th-century Spain, the vihuela, or the “mother” of the modern guitar, was developed. In the 16th century the large body of the lute and the shape of the vihuela were merged into the guitar of today. Including them in this woman’s lliklla signals her appropriation of outside symbols from daily life in the 20th century.

There are also zigzag olive branch designs to the left of the guitars. This design entered the repertoire of weaving patterns after Bolivia gained independence from Spain in 1825. The olive branch, together with the laurel branch, symbolized the Neo-Classical ideal of the republic and was prominently displayed in buildings, silver objects, and military uniforms. This method of appropriating new content is found throughout modern indigenous American textiles. This open attitude may seem surprising in “traditional” garments, yet artists of all cultures embrace the new.

Geographic Area

South America, Bolivia, Department of Potosí, Norte Potosí, Llallagua


20th century


Camelid fiber, sheep's wool

Credit Line

Gift of Nicholas Pisaris

Accession Number


Photo Credit

Photo by Bruce M. White, 2014

Technical Notes

This lliklla as well as most of the modern Andean  ponchos, mantles, belts and bags in the exhibition are woven from spun and dyed animal fibers.  Animal fibers are recognizable by their distinct scale patterns, which are visible under magnification. These scales are often worn from processing and dyeing as well as subsequent use and washing. It can also be challenging to bring the scale patterns into sharp focus under a transmitted light microscope; however, scanning electron imaging reveals the surface details in high resolution. To help differentiate among the scale patterns of sheep, llama, vicuña, and alpaca, Jeannette Taylor, Technician at Emory University’s Robert P. Apkarian Integrated Electron Microscopy Core, produced images of reference fibers and samples from collection objects.

For more conservation information, please see The Threads of Time Conservation Project.

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