In Colombia still live a large number of indigenous communities and their traditions. Handicrafts are an integral part of the country’s history but also of its intangible heritage. Handicrafts are today an important source of income for the communities but also a way to preserve their way of life and make it known across borders.

silvia mercado cauca colombia © Tristan Quevilly
silvia mercado cauca colombia © Tristan Quevilly

bags woven by the women of the Wayuu community living in La Guajira, Latin America’s easternmost peninsula. These colorful and unique handmade confections, require nearly 25 days of weaving. The Wayuu women prove their intelligence, dexterity and creativity by performing this ancient technique of several generations. The men weave the shoulder strap. Initially dedicated to personal transportation, all Mochilas have a unique shape but a unique color and patterns. It is said that a Mochila reflects the personality of the person who wears it or the one who makes it. Be careful to buy real Mochilas and not reproductions so that it benefits the communities.

2/ Las Molas

Molas are colorful patterns on a black background woven by the women of the Guna community. These handcrafted pieces are made by hand to freeze their culture in time. The women of the Guna community are dedicated to this and are experts in this protected craft discipline and exhibited at the Gold Museum in Bogota

3/ Ráquira Ceramics

Clay is the union of water, earth, air and fire. It is also a material used by pre-Columbian peoples to keep water, corn and salt. Today the ceramics of Ráquira has a utilitarian but also magical character. 

4/ The Vueltiao Hat

One of Colombia’s best-known artisanal symbols, the Vueltiao hat is made by the Zenú community. A complex traditional process is used to extract and transform the natural fibers of the “caña flecha” palm tree into black and white patterns representing the totemic elements of the Zenú community. 

5/ Pasto Varnish – mopa-mopa resin

An extraction technique for the resin of the “Mopa-Mopa” tree was developed by the indigenous people living in Nariño. Shaped into thin leaves and dyed with vegetable dyes, the resin is placed on wooden objects of daily use (bowl, vase).

raquira boyaca colombia © Tristan Quevilly
raquira boyaca colombia © Tristan Quevilly

6/ Colombian Ponchos

The poncho is a typical Latin American garment with a simple design in the form of a rectangle and a hole at the head, without sleeves to facilitate movement. In Colombia, it is worn in the coolest rural areas of the territory: Cundinamarca, Cundiboyacense del Valle de Tenza region. Most often worn by men, the poncho is a handmade piece that is easy to find in Colombia and often of good quality. 

7/ Alpargatas

Alpargatas are espadrilles: lightweight canvas shoes with a rope sole. Comfortable and ideal for hot weather. Colored, plain, black or white, they have crossed all the fashions. They are found in the Andean regions and a little everywhere in Colombia. 

8/ Arhuaca mochilas

Arhuaca mochilas or called Tutu Iku in Ika are an artisanal product of the arhuaca ethnic group and one of the most representative of Colombia. Made by the women of the community, the Gwati, from a very young age, the mochilas come in different forms: natural wool fabric, cotton, fique or industrial wool. Men wear them over their shoulders for three purposes: carrying personal items, carrying coca leaves, or storing travel food. 

9/ Les bisutería colombiana

Colombian jewelry is very colorful, consisting of stones and leather (for men). Colombia is the land of emeralds but be careful not to buy them just anywhere, or from just anyone. 

10/ The chivas de barro

The chivas de barro are somewhat peculiar buses. Historically used to connect peasant villages or isolated farms, to the main villages. The inhabitants of the Andes use it to transport goods or for their personal transportation.
Made from the recovery of truck or bus bodies. Models of traditional art, these buses covered with colorful patterns are a Colombian treasure.

Colombian handicrafts allow thousands of people to live from this preserved and envied indigenous art. During your trip to Colombia, take the time to understand these customs and appreciate them. 

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