Tablecloth, 'Nanduti Lace', needle lace, linen, made by Griselda Gonzales, Itauguá, Paraguay, 2010
Griselda Gonzales, the maker of this colourful Nanduti lace tablecloth, is a highly skilled practitioner of traditional Nanduti lace in her home in Itauguá, the Central Department of Paraguay. This style of lace is thought to have been influenced by the Spanish invasion of the 16th century. The local Guarani women developed in vibrant colours their own distinct version of this type of sol lace in which the base threads radiate outwards from the centre as in the spokes of a wheel.
The organisation Tekojoja Kuna Rembiapópe (Justice for the woman and her family) assists women who have difficulty providing for their families to redefine themselves as artisans, and through this to discover their importance and worth. Years of corruption and poverty in Paraguay have led to high levels of crime and abuse. This organisation has created an environment of support networks to enable these beautiful works to be made and sold overseas.
Gonzales was chosen as a finalist to be exhibited in the Powerhouse Museum International Lace Award Exhibition 2010 along with 129 other artists from 20 countries. The exquisite quality of work and brilliant colours makes this a superb example of this form of needle lace, typical of this region.
Lindie Ward, Curator Design & Society, May 2012
Nanduti lace is made on a wooden frame, bastidor, stretched with linen on which a pattern of shapes is marked, traditionally with charcoal. Coloured linen threads are worked and needle woven over and under a set of threads radiating from a central point on top of the linen stretcher. A long blunt-tipped slightly curved needle is used, flattened at the tip to enable the needle to pass more easily through the web. Palm leaves and wheels (ruedas), with background crosses and florets are popular. As in drawn work the threads are pulled together to create density in the centre of the patterns. Decorative fillings in Paraguay are known as jojoba. The wheel-based design originated in Spain and Portugal in the 1700s and was introduced to the Canary Islands and South American countries by the conquistadors and missionaries.
The lace is removed from the linen backing and starched with almidon, derived from a root vegetable, carefully manipulated into a perfect shape and left to dry in the sun. The denser the needleweaving, the better the work will hold its shape. Less well made pieces will be unrecognisable when laundered. The use of coloured threads- here red, blue, yellow, orange, lime and green - typify Nanduti work, adding life and a sense of joy to the work. Colours become a rainbow spectrum in combinations of needle woven threads.
Traditional tale of Nanduti lace as retold by Griselda Gonzalez: 'Two young indigenous Guarani boys competed to win the hearts of a beautiful young girl named Samimbi. One night, one of the boys wandered through the woods looking for a gift for the girl. The boy raised his head to the heavens to implore the help of the Guarani god, Tupa, and at that moment saw a beautiful lace resting in the branches of a tree. He climbed the tree but when he touched the lace he found nothing in his hands but a broken spider web. For many months he was sad and heartbroken. Finally he confided the source of his unhappiness to his mother. The elderly woman asked her son to guide her to the tree where he had seen the spider web shimmer in the moonlight. Once there he saw the web had been replaced with another exactly the same as he had seen months before. The woman dedicated herself to making a web of lace identical to that of the spider. She studied the spider's movements and began with her needle to copy the circle and lines the spider had woven. Using the fine strands of her white hair she created a lace identical to the spider's.'
The idea of working as a cooperative is not new to lace making.There are many philanthropists over the centuries who have initiated lace making workshops for this very reason, thereby creating a respectable and profitable enterprise for women and often giving rise to a new genre of lace. The difference here is that the organisation seeks to place at the centre of economic activity the needs of the human being, as opposed to profit.