100% untreated wool handbags "mochilas" handmade by the Iku tribe in Sierra Nevada, Colombia

Each mochila is unique, because the design depends on the women's inspiration. Out of respect with their traditions and artistic expression, they are not forced to make a specific design or exact size. Mochilas are about 12"x8", without the "gaza" or strap.

DAGUA only sells vegan products, but taking into account the profound respect this community has for their animals, and the fact that they are mainly vegetarian, I decided to buy directly from them to support this beautiful tribe.

Dollars and sense
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Bags origin: Although the whole Iku community is involved in production, only Wati (Arhuaco women) can weave the bags, according to their tradition. The women learn to weave from an early age by watching their mothers and the first mochila they make is given to the priest for the rituals of the life cycle. The colors with which the mochilas are woven are earth tones, ranging from brown and beige to black and gray. Originally they were woven with natural fibers from the Arahuaco lands, such as agave and cotton, but the Spanish introduced sheep and currently mochilas are made of 100% sheep wool. The bags usually carry indigenous drawings or representations of animals and other objects of their cosmology. Each design is unique and identifies families.

Who are they: The Arhuaco are an indigenous people of Colombia. They are descendants of the Tairona culture (search for "Ciudad perdida" (lost city), you will be blown away!), concentrated in northern Colombia in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The Arhuaco are also known as the Aruaco, Iku, Bintucua, Bintuk, Bíntukua, Ica, Ijca, Ijka, Ika, and Ike people. The population is dispersed, but gets together in these towns for reunions and ceremonies, with Nabusimake being the most important of them and with a special significance: it's composed of fifty squared shaped houses and circular temples named Kankura, for men and women.

Population: About 27,000. Their language is the Ikün (Iku). Traditionally the Arhuacos have been unlucky and defensors of peaceful coexistence with other human groups. They are convinced that the balance of humanity is in respect for other beings, not only among humans, as well as among different cultures; but not only human cultures, but those cultures of nature. Arhuacos base their nutrition in vegetable products such as arracacha, bananas, cassava, apium, ñame, malanga, potatoes, beans, batatas, col, corn, onions and sugar. Sometimes they include meats, cereals, snails and iguanas. They pass whole days by chewing coca leaves as part of their tradition, beliefs and customs. As far as drinks are concerned, the water of panela with lemon or guarapo and rum are counted.

Where do they live: In Colombia, they live in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This is a unique pyramid-shaped mountain on the northern tip of the Andes in northern Colombia. On its slopes live four separate but related peoples: the Arhuaco (or Ika), Wiwa, Kogi, and Kankuamo. Together they number more than 30,000. The mountain's peak is over 5,000m high. Rising from the shores of the Caribbean, the lower plains are clad in tropical forest, turning to open savannah and cloud forest higher up. To the Indians, the Sierra Nevada is the heart of the world. It is surrounded by an invisible 'black-line' that encompasses the sacred sites of their ancestors and demarcates their territory.

Spirituality: The Arhuacos are a deeply spiritual and knowledgeable people. They believe in the existence of a Creator and Great Father, Kakü Serankua. They consider the Sierra as the heart of the world, from which it originated in the different stones. Nature and society as a unit are governed by a single Sacred Law, immutable, preexisting, primitive and surviving of all and all. This Natural Law gives rise to the creation of the matter and its evolution, equilibrium, preservation and harmony, which constitute the fundamental objectives and the reason of being of Mamo, the spiritual authorities of the Arhuaca society. Each Mama or Mamü is chosen between different candidates from eight to ten years old and receives an education that lasts at least 9 years. They are individual and community philosophers, priests, doctors and advisors. Its influence is decisive in the life of each person and society.