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What do Peru and Saudi Arabia have in Common?

Posted June 24, 2013 @ 5:14pm | by Melanie

What do Peru and Saudi Arabia have in Common?

I have found myself in a unique business environment during the past seven summers, in Rochester, MN. Every week for three months, Wilber and I take the loom on a scenic 1 1/2 hour drive south of the Twin Cities to do an all day Thursday show. Our location is on Peace Plaza, the gateway to the renown Mayo Clinic. There is an international clientele there that we have the opportunity to connect with. One of the pre-dominate cultures that we meet are from Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are known to fly private airplanes to Rochester for their clinic needs.
Over the years at the Thursday show, many Saudi people are really drawn to the loom ( but they don't buy), nostalgia is written all over their face and some are pretty excited to communicate about their family weaving heritage; a 'craft of the past'
I have interviewed as many Saudi's as possible about the loss of hand weaving. The discovery of oil, killed the craft about 30 years ago. Saudi Arabia has the world's largest oil reserves. This has facilitated the transformation of an underdeveloped desert kingdom into one of the world's wealthiest nations. Vast oil revenues have permitted rapid modernization. It's strange how for some of these Saudi's, the worlds richest people, they almost look down at the craft as though it were too 'primitive'. I am curious as to how they decorate their homes now compared to the past, what is artful to them? I'll never know first hand, I'm not much for their dress code!
The Peru, Saudi Arabia connection? Peru is mining minerals at a ferocious pace with gold, copper and silver leading the way. As the country experiences more wealth and a higher standard of living, the weaving craft is disappearing. Lessening poverty is a must in Peru, and in-spite of all the mining, there are still pockets of extreme poverty in the Andes. To a young weaver, the jobs that the mines and construction offer, usually sound better than what they actually are. However when a weaver leaves the textile area of Ayacucho for the coast of Northern Peru for that 'good' sounding mining job, and expectations are not met, one doesn't usually end up back in the weaving capital of the Andes, but instead, in the huge modern city of Lima, often severing their weaving heritage in the process. Oil and Gold and their irreversible consequences, are not that much different from each other.
Looking at where the fast changes have taken Saudi Arabia, makes me even more aware of the need to preserve this great art form in Peru. With master weavers like Maximo Laura, Wilber Qusipe & Nilda Callanaupa, Peru has some great role models. 

 
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