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Indigenous Natural Dyes Starter Grants

Cochineal dyeing at the Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco, Chinchero, Peru | Photo by: Luke Jordan


INDIGENOUS NATURAL DYES OF THE SACRED VALLEY, ANDEAN PERU

Mary Anne Jordan, Visual Art; Caroline Chaboo, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology; and Luke Jordan, Visual Art

funded Spring 2015

A worldwide revival of interest in natural dyes is driving demand for more sustainable and healthier dyeing practices. At the same time, indigenous natural dyes are facing extinction as knowledge is lost. Peru has a rich tradition of dyes and woven textiles yet the diversity of color sources (plants, animals, mineral), mordants, color processing, and recipes are sparsely documented. We propose to address this fundamental problem by documenting the biodiversity, processing and recipes, and production practices for two dominant colors, red (from scale insects) and blue (from various plants) in Peru’s high Andean Sacred Valley. Our core team assembles key disciplines at KU (visual art and systematic biology) and in Peru (indigenous weaver, indigenous human health expert, and ethno-botanist) to conduct exploratory fieldwork. Through this research, the team will develop the protocols to study all aspects—inventory of specimens, textile and fiber samples; harvesting; dye recipes; and health—that can yield manuscripts and two color books. This initial process and preliminary products will crystalize the research team that can tackle more comprehensive study and multiple questions and dimensions species about sustainability and quality in historic and contemporary and dye sources of Peru's rich but shrinking indigenous communities.