Color and Q'iwa: Expecting the Unexpected in Andean Textile Design

Author(s): Rebecca Stone

Year: 2016


Color is one of many key expressive modes for textiles in particular. Intense, communicative, and not always predictable, Andean textile coloration is a complex issue. Rather than submitting to a "cookbook" delineation of color symbolism (red means blood, etc.), the abstract mindset of ancient and modern Andean societies means that color has many more complex, even philosophical, roles to play in the fiber arts of this area.

For instance, purposeful rupturing of regular color patterning occurs in various styles, from Paracas embroideries to Wari, Chimú, and Inka imperial tapestries. A characteristic late Andean pattern is to break the pattern via color deviations and outright anomalies. The Quechua word applicable to this phenomenon, q'iwa, comes from music, meaning the intentional off-note. Why the Andean state styles embraced the idea of a wildcard element is the subject of this paper. Political, spiritual, and purely technical considerations enter into accounting for the Andean predilection for irregularity as a component of orderliness. A relationship between chaos theory and Wari color q'iwas will be suggested, proposing that possibly divination was used to introduce irregularity into otherwise predictable design.

Cite this Record

Color and Q'iwa: Expecting the Unexpected in Andean Textile Design. Rebecca Stone. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403316)


andes Color Textiles

Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;