Synopses & Reviews
Coca bags, or chuspas, represent one of the most enduring and resilient forms in the rich history of Andean weaving traditions. These small, elaborately decorated bags have been a constant presence in the archaeological, written, and visual record of the Andes for at least 1,500 years. In the details of their design and decoration, chuspa styles are testament to centuries of shifting trends and technologies in Andean textile arts. However, as carriers of coca leaves, chuspas are much more than aesthetically pleasing andand#160;technically sophisticated artworks. For millennia coca leaves have occupied an essential and unparalleled place in the daily lives, social customs, and ritual practices of Andean communities, in which chuspas also play central roles owing to their actual and symbolic connection with coca. Worldwide reactions to the plant and legislation of its uses have affected Andean traditions surrounding coca leaves since the Spanish conquest of the Andes in the sixteenth century and continue into the present.
Focusing on the collection of the American Museum of Natural History and examples from other museum collections around the world, this book examines the multifaceted history of coca bags, investigating their function and reception and the changes in their appearance. The book reveals how their history is a consequence not only of variations in Andean textile traditions, but also of the story of the sacred and contested substance they carry.
This book traces 1500 years of textile arts in the Andes, specifically the history ofand#160;chuspas, small bags originally designed to hold coca leaves that are both aesthetically beautiful and technically sophisticated pieces of art.
Textile production and consumption has played a central role in the economy of the Andes region of South America since the Inca Empire (AD 14001532). This book traces 1500 years of textile arts in the Andes, with a focus on chuspas, small bags originally designed to hold coca leaves; colorful and functional, chuspas are both aesthetically pleasing and technically sophisticated pieces of art. In an area noted for extreme weather, textiles produced from the wool of llamas, vicuñas, alpacas, and other indigenous animals were essential in protecting people from the cold and wind at high altitudes in the Andes. Often stunningly beautiful, these textiles were also demanded as tribute by the state, and offered as valuable gifts. Beyond their functional and aesthetic value, textiles have long played important ritual and social roles in Andean communities. Fully illustrated, this book offers an important introduction to the rich history and key roles of these textiles.
About the Author
Nicola Sharratt is a postdoctoral fellow at the Field Museum, Chicago, specializing in South American anthropology.