Segments in this Video

Oaxaca and Weaving (02:48)


Oaxaca is high in the mountains of southern Mexico. It is a city of duality and contrasts. The people of Oaxaca have maintained their distinctive culture for more than 2,500 years. An unbroken history of dyeing and weaving is intrinsically tied to their land.

History of Oaxaca (03:22)

Viewers learn the history of Oaxaca. Today there are 16 indigenous groups, each with its own identity language, and art. The history of weaving and the natural resources necessary for this art are included.

Colored by Nature (02:03)

Speaking in Zapotec, a weaver describes which colors are made from which natural resources.

Natural Colors and Indigo (05:16)

Viewers see the variety of colors that are produced from nature. Indigo dyes require complex processes to produce the familiar blue color.

Reds and Riches (04:55)

Cochineal is a traditional red dye of pre-Hispanic Mexico. It produces a range of vibrant, colorfast reds. Viewers visit a farm where prickly pear cacti and their precious cochineal parasites are tended. Follow the process from parasite to dyed yarns.

Importance of Cochineal (02:05)

Cochineal has played an important historical role in the Oaxaca region. The Spanish saw the value of cochineal and immediately enforced a strict monopoly.

Playing the Strings (07:20)

The whole town of Santo Tomas Jalieza specializes in weaving. Viewers follow the complex process of weaving traditional pieces for the market. One family makes original designs that are in high demand.

Silken Threads (03:30)

In order to create jobs for their children, weavers must find markets for their goods. Weaving with silk goes back to pre-Hispanic times. Different kinds of silk have been introduced. Viewers learn about the growth cycles of silkworms and how their silk is processed.

Hand-Spun Silk Yarn (02:58)

Women work at the complex task of extracting worms from the cocoon and then spinning it into yarn on spindles. Follow along as a man makes a silk shawl that his wife will decorate and hand-weave loose silk on each end.

Silk Weaving: Sustained Effort (04:06)

In the 1930s and 40s, fumigation during a malaria outbreak killed the silkworms. Today, an organized group of families continues to be innovative with silk colors and patterns. They seek to create more sales through more variety of products.

Weaving a Culture (04:15)

Generations of children grow up around looms and yarns. They see both fathers and mothers working together. The Spanish brought with them sheep, wool, and the floor loom. Watch as intricate designs take shape on the looms.

Zapotec Language (02:03)

The revival of the Zapotec language gives children the opportunity to understand the older villagers. From their elders, children learn weaving and dyeing traditions. Multilingualism gives younger people opportunities to broaden their international horizons.

Weaving Cooperatives (02:53)

The Zapotecs have a long tradition of working and celebrating together. A complex bartering system allows them to build houses and public works projects. Weaving cooperatives focus on sustainability, natural dye processes, and member equality.

Cooperative Productivity (04:10)

In shared workshop spaces, members of the cooperatives can be more productive. They use solar power to heat their water for dyeing. They plan developmental and expansion projects for their cooperative.

Flying Shuttles (04:51)

Ancient ruins provide weavers with patterns and symbols that they incorporate into their woven products. Watch the complex process of warping a loom with so many threads that it is an 8-hour project.

Custom Weaving (02:34)

An American professor works with a village fo weavers in the Oaxaca region. They complete a custom order for an American church. An American student works with a village to create custom design products.

Building the Future (05:19)

Only by creating new markets for their woven products can Mexico's weaving industry expand. Oaxacan merchants describe how and what they sell. Viewers visit a fabric market.

Textile Museum (04:18)

Most of the cloth artists prefer to meet their clients in person. Local sales are not sufficient to support a lifestyle. The opening of the Textile Museum has popularized innovative fabrics; it is also a place to teach and revive textile art.

Rare and Unique Textile Art (02:21)

Viewers see old, rare, and unique textile designs. Some are kept under glass, innovative pieces that are owned by the museum are on display or in preserved by the museum. Visitors can take classes at the museum.

Textiles and People's Lives (00:43)

In Oaxaca, textiles weave the stories of the people and their art and culture and land.

Credits: Woven Lives: Contemporary Textiles from Ancient Oaxacan Traditions (04:06)

Credits: Woven Lives: Contemporary Textiles from Ancient Oaxacan Traditions

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Woven Lives: Contemporary Textiles from Ancient Oaxacan Traditions

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Textile art and artists play an active role in the culture of the Zapotec communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. Following the work and daily lives of weavers from six different villages in the region, this documentary traces the evolution of their weaving tradition from its early development millennia ago to the present day. The story also looks at the integration of ancient techniques with new technologies and explores how Zapotec artisans are now drawing upon the past to help them move toward the future. Viewers gain an understanding of the importance of the weaver’s tools and materials—including naturally produced dyes, traditionally cultivated silks, and hand-operated looms—as well as broader cultural insights in this extraordinary mix of anthropology, history, and design studies. (76 minutes)

Length: 77 minutes

Item#: BVL49282

ISBN: 978-1-62290-577-5

Copyright date: ©2011

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“A captivating and colorful look at the Oaxacan artisans and their work.... Well-chosen regional music and landscape photography accompany the narration. The makers and the markets for these products makes an interesting subject that students in textile design and manufacturing programs will find informative. Recommended.” —Educational Media Reviews Online

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