Meet the Makers: Zenú


Spread across the vast northern lands of Córdoba and Sucre are the talented Zenu artisans. They are a large community - of the 33,000 that live in the area, 90% are indigenous Zenu. The tribe holds a rich history - from around 200 B.C.E., they are known to have occupied areas of Northwestern Colombia and by around 1,000 B.C they were one of the most powerful and well-organised communities in the Ancient Americas. Sadly their population diminished with the arrival of the Spanish (where they were taxed heavily, forced into labour and unable to fight many Western diseases).



Beyond handcrafts, Zenu don't maintain any traditional forms of governance, agriculture or economy. Nonetheless their weaving stands strong. Children as young as eight as taught to weave in the 'Cana Flecha', utilising the leaf from a cane that grows around the wetlands of the indigenous reserves. Plants and mud from the land are also transformed into natural dyes, creating unique and beautiful colours. The in-depth process means that each piece can take anything from a week to two months to make. 


Kate Wrigley, founder of The Colombia Collective meeting the Zenu artisans


First made over 300 years ago, the Zenu El Sombrero Vueltiao has become a cultural treasure. Originally designed to protect men working in the fields, it is now worn up and down the country and has even been perched on the heads of famous presidents (including Bill Clinton on his trip to Colombia in 2000). Today Zenu is praised for shaping such a key symbol, something that is made purely from the depths of the earth and tells a story in itself.