The cultural traditions upheld by this mother-daughter duo led them to make Andean-inspired face masks, but not without roadblocks. Here’s the story of Peruvian entrepreneurship that went viral.
The women behind the masks
Violeta Quispe is the social media savvy daughter of Gaudencia Yupari Quispe, both of whom are artists working in the world of Andean textiles and crafts. In the 1980s, due to Peru’s internal violence, Gaudencia fled her hometown of Sarhua, a small district in Ayacucho, while pregnant with Violeta.
While Gaudencia specializes in making traditional polleras and blouses from Ayacucho, Violeta is a passionate painter creating trinkets focused on flora and fauna through her brand Viga. She also creates paintings known as tablas de Sarhua– an artistic expression considered a National Cultural Patrimony. The tablas, or boards, are an art form that combines pre-Columbian expressive forms with Catholic reredos (retablos), used to preserve history and memory by depicting customs and stories of communities and individuals.
Violeta now creates tablas with her observations of Lima in times of Coronavirus, including the fear and admiration she has for her sister who works as a nurse.
Both currently live in Delicias de Villa, Chorrillos, and are part of the Sarhua Art Route made up of workshops owned by migrants living in the area. Because of the pandemic, all of the orders the duo had lined up for products have been cancelled, leaving them with no income. Violeta urged her mother to give mask-making a try, at first for their own use. It was only natural that they created face masks that represented their vibrant, artistic spirit and heritage.
Face masks with a message
Violeta and Gaudencia have made about a dozen masks during quarantine; each takes about two hours to make. For her part, Gaudencia takes the colorful machine-embroidered characters and symbols she uses for polleras to adorn her masks. Violeta hand paints native flowers and birds on hers. Smile through art is their message, since what shocked them the most with the new normal is not being able to see people’s smiles.
Violeta, as with her tablas, is also using face masks to record and bring awareness to weighty topics, such as the Ni una menos movement. Women and children have been increasingly exposed to violent and sexual abuse during the quarantine mandate in Peru and around the world. This is no time to stay silent.
The major roadblock to continue producing is purchasing material. They use 100% cotton twill as the outer layer (on which Violeta paints), and poplin inside, and are working on designs to include filters as well. The fabrics are only sold in large bolts, for which they don’t have the money to invest in.
Left out by the government
Many cultural artists like Violeta and Gaudencia have been left out in the government payouts during the state of emergency. While the many local television interviews have shined a light on their work and their struggle, the economic shortcoming persists.
They calculate the masks will cost between S/ 25-35, depending on the design. With the economy starting up again in Peru, the women will hopefully have more resources and opportunities to purchase material and sell their masks in Lima and across the country. Violeta has promised to update her personal and brand page with news on when they will have new face masks to sell.
Are they selling internationally? Not at the moment. One opportunity for the women is to set up a crowdfunding page for those interested in helping them buy material and set up a system to sell abroad.
Cover photo: Andina
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