Things in Colombia are always magical. The most ordinary things are made extraordinary. And the practice of crocheting Wayúu bags is no exception.
So fitting to the magical realism that is present in this beautiful country, the indigenous Wayúu people attribute the art of weaving to a talented little spider called Walekeru.
The Hunter and the Magical Spider
The story of the Walekeru begins with a hunter. One spring day, when the birds sang joyfully to announce the first rain showers of the season, a brave young man went hunting through the mountains of Isashii, a dark place where only fear and loneliness prevailed.
This man was called Irunúu, and he was a mighty Wayúu hunter and warrior whose courage ran wild through his veins.
The Wayúu elders say that when Irunúu was born, a star fell from the sky that illuminated the night.
They also knew that his life would be filled with great surprises.
The morning of Irunúu’s hunting trip, he heard a small voice that seemed to come from the tree branches. He thought it was simply the branches whispering in the wind, and so, he carried on.
After a while, he heard a small child’s giggle. He stopped to listen, held his breath, prepared his arrow and his bow, and waited for the strange giggle to repeat itself.
A mix of fear and curiosity took hold of him as he gathered the courage to move towards the unknown sound.
The Magical Girl in the Woods
Much to his surprise, behind the bushes he saw a scruffy, dirty little girl lying on the floor playing with ants. The hunter approached the little girl. Concerned, Irunúu asked her where her parents were, and if she was alright.
Overwhelmed by all the questions, the little girl, whose name was Walekeru, burst into tears and rubbed her face with her dirty hands. The young man went from shock to compassion, and after hearing the words that came from the dirty child, tenderness awoke from his heart.
Irunúu took the little girl’s hand, lifted her off the ground and carried her back to his home. That day, he had found a little flower, someone he would call the daughter of his soul.
Upon their arrival, he told his three sisters to clean up the poor child and teach her the ways of a Wayuu woman. The sisters didn’t welcome Walekeru very well, and conspired to mistreat her by not feeding her.
But she never went hungry, because Irunúu would always share his food with her when he arrived home every night.
The Mystery of the Weaving Begins
After some time, Irunúu noticed that wonderful woven items started to appear in the house. A beautiful woven hammock, a finely crocheted blanket and other items would appear as if by magic. Irunúu had no idea where these items were coming from, until one evening he arrived home earlier than usual.
As he entered his hut, Irunúu was attracted by an unknown force. Upon closer inspection, he realized that Walekeru had transformed into a beautiful maiden.
She was quickly weaving the threads that were coming out of her mouth as she turned them into beautiful fabrics. At once, Irunúu fell in love.
She told him she could stay that way as long as he would keep her talent a secret.
A Dance with the Devil
One day, evil spirits in disguise invited Irunúu to an event. He came wearing many of the beautiful fabrics Walekeru had made for him.
The spirits asked him where he got them from, but he knew he had to keep his promise to Walekeru. As the evening went on, the spirits got Irunúu drunk, and the truth came out.
When Irunúu woke up the next morning, he remembered the promise he broke and came running home. His sisters were nowhere to be seen. Walekeru had turned them into bats.
As he walked over to embrace her, Walekeru disappeared. In her place, Irunúu found a spider who escaped into the mountains to never be found again.
Irunúu saved all the beautiful threads Walekeru made for him and sent them to a Wayúu artisan so she could imitate the techniques and pass them on to other Wayúu women.
And so, the art of crocheting spread across the land and the mystical and magical Walekeru become known as the mother of weaving for the Wayúu people.