‘Is there a story behind every pouch?’ is the same question as ‘is there a story behind that person?’ Every pouch has a story, however little embroidery is applied.
The story of this pouch goes back to 2016 where I cycled through South America. The distances between places to stock up on food and water were just, but really just barely, near enough for me to experience the desolate feeling of North Argentina.
I vividly remember the biting cold of the nights in the high Andes, the successor of the evenings which I loved so much. Ends and starts of the day were the most pleasant parts of the Andes. The extreme beauty of the landscape that appear barren had wanted me to stay longer but I was always in need of more water.
The endless stretches into that what lay further than the eye could make out had a strong pull on my desire to be longer in it. But there was only one road, corrugated like roofs of cheaply built African huts. A road I was not my strongest self on and it took what I had in me to cycle them. My truest enjoyment lay in the spots where I placed my tent. Such spots were of course only accessible because I cycled there. One spot was opposite a house made from earth bricks. There was a makeshift kitchen outside the home, a huge heap of little gnarled pieces of wood, shielded by the wall of its home to not allow the wind to play with the fire. I roamed around the home, calling out for someone who possibly could give me some water. I looked into a barren bed room, one book on a near empty structure that was serving as a bed. Careful not to shock or offend the unseen owner, which could result in a nasty outcome, I stumbled around the patio, to look for a water tap. I peeked into a kitchen that had some jerrycans, to my surprise, some filled with water. But I decided not to take water that was not mine. Water that was brought by truck from a far away distance for a person who lived a simple life. Undoubtedly a very harsh lifestyle.
I left the premises without filling up on water. I settled for the evening a generous distance out of clear view from this house, that must yield a fulfilling lifestyle to the one who lived here. At least, I’d think so because the early morning saw a herd of young llama running towards me. ‘Do I see that correct?’ was my first thought. As I said, I was quite a distance away from the earth built home with jerrycans filled with water but not so far the llama eyes could not make out something unusual appeared out there. First I thought the young llama who appeared playful were accidentally running towards me, maybe because of the dried up corps of a goat that lay near? Maybe because I appeared on a spot that had abundantly good chewy branches, unknown to the knowledge of this less hairy species that was me?
But the longer I kept the herd of llama in my vision I could not see any thing other than pure fervor on their side, curiosity and even a very near approach to myself. Needless to say I felt the exact same. I was jumping from joy and excitement and I probably drooled by the cuteness of their snouts. I wanted to hug them, wrap my arms around their woolly firm necks. Study the tassel that was attached to them, that too was what I would have liked.
A few years later I traveled with my husband on a little Paraguayan motorbike in Bolivia towards the Chilean border. The going was absolutely uncomfortable and much less pleasant than pushing my own boundaries on a bicycle but the good thing was that my eyes might have been fixed on finding little treasures that sitting on the back of a motorbike could provide me with.
A keen eye notices the elongated llama pom-pom on my kickbike…
I found three llama tassels. One of them became the inseparable adornment of my kickbike, who adapted the same name: Llama
I found them not laying around just somewhere or for sale at some unbearable touristy spot in Uyuni. No, I found them in one of these incredible unimaginable stretched out desolate landscapes that are unknown to Europeans.
A place where you feel at the mercy of chance. Where questions about former living conditions are unconsciously raised and an unwavering admiration for those who still thrive, or just live. A place so desolate and so hostile that tracks are not shown on any map. A place not for motorbikes loaded to the brim, two people toppling over, crashing into the sand.
But also a place where the only thing to do, you really want to do, is marvel. Prepare food and marvel again. Sleep in the unrealistic silence of an endless dome and continue to marvel about creation.
I have specialized in baking bread on several sorts of sources. I am still far removed from a Bedouin but I can make bread pretty well.
A spot where only llama thrive, a spot where shepherds of these animals might take pride in creating colorful tassels. A spot where a storm had us lay down low. A spot on earth that wanted Geo to move away from as quick as possible and wanted me to stay as long as possible, since we could carry more water now.
The desire to stay, along with the tassels, I kept. Holding it in my hand thoughts lead me to the person who made it, questioning the place where she sat when she knotted the threads, assuming the wife of the shepherd made them. Wondering whether she bought eight different balls of wool? Curious whether she made tassels ahead according the number of llama they owned or only when a young is born? It’s not a quick job to make such a tassel, though it is by far the most animal friendly way to mark your herd.
The actual embroidery started on a bicycle tour to Croatia.
- Hand dyed: wild mulberries
- Fabric: hemp cotton originating from Nepal
- Stitch: straight
- Lining: bought at the Persian Gulf in Iran
- Jeans fabric: belonged to Jochen, a friend of Geo
- Beads: from my student days in Antwerp
- Hand model: my dear husband Geo
- Material used: wonder-under bought in Florida, USA
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