“Those were the years of violence,” said Juliana, a Peruvian woman who works with craft collective Kuyanakuy. She reflected on the bloody internal conflict that raged in parts of Peru in the early 1990s, leaving at least 70,000 people dead. At the height of the violence, Juliana was sheltering 12 families who were forced out of their homes to flee the terror.
Although the conflict has now settled in Juliana’s community, it left deep scars. Women who lived through that time lost husbands, children and beloved neighbours. Many found themselves impoverished without their breadwinner or another steady source of income.
Out of these ashes, a group of women banded together to form Kuyanakuy, a name that means ‘Let us love’: a place where today women survivors of the conflict can meet, support each other, cry together, and work together to create beautiful handicrafts drawing on rich Peruvian artistic traditions and imagery. All the craftswomen are from low-income families and most are illiterate when they join, with little chance of a decent, steady job. Through Kuyanakuy, though, they are now learning to read and write alongside their new-found handicraft skills. As well, of course, this work generates income for them as they care, single-handed, for their families.