The Story of the Nanduti

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The Story of the Nanduti

My eyes were drawn to the intricate, colourful hangings on the walls, as delicate as spiderwebs and twice as pretty.

“What are they?” I asked Chrissy Sayer, the store manager at the Paddington Trading Circle.

“These are one of our most unique products, from Paraguay.” She explained. “They’re called Nanduti.”

The Nanduti’s at the Trading Circle are made by local artisans at two collectives in Paraguay, the Teko Joka Kuna Rembiapope and the Cooperative of the Weavers of Nanduti, that help artisans earn a fair wage for their work.

Nanduti means ‘Spiderweb’ and is an intricate piece made by hand, crafted into colourful laces pieces perfect as wall hangings or table centrepieces. But it was the legend behind the Nanduti that had me most intrigued.

The cultural legend behind the Nanduti tells us that two indigenous boys were competing to win the heart of a beautiful girl named Samimbi.

One night, one of the boys wandered through the woods looking for a gift for the young girl. The boys raised his head towards the heavens to implore the help of Tupa, the Guarani God, and in that moment he saw a beautiful lace resting in the branches of a tree. He climbed the tree, but when he touched the lace he found in his hands nothing but a torn spiderweb. For many months the boy was sad and heartbroken, finally he confided in his mother what was the source of his sadness.

The elderly woman asked her son to guide her to the tree where he had seen the spiderweb glimmer in the moonlight. Once there, they saw that the torn web had been replaced with another, exactly the same as the one he had seen months before. The woman decided to make a web of lace herself identical to that of the spider. She studied the spider’s movements, and began to move her needle to copy the circles and lines that the spider wove. Using the fine stands of her white hair, she created a lace identical to the spiders: it was called the “Nandu-ati or white hairs of the spider”.

The art of Nanduti is taught to the women traditionally from their mothers, some starting as young as five years old. The cooperatives that sell the Nanduti’s to the Trading Circle are fair trade, which ensures that the artisans receive economic opportunities that they would otherwise be denied. It allows the artisans to uphold their dignity and ensures that this particular cultural skill is not lost as the world changes and modernises.

If you are interested in buying a Nanduti or learning more about the cooperatives that make them, head to the Trading Circle found in Summer Hill, Sydney or Paddington, Brisbane.

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