Jilakat wist’alla (leader’s coca pouch)

Unknown Maker, Aymara

Belén Pueblo, Department of Oruro, Bolivia

Mid 20th century

Yarn, handspun sheep and llama wool, with more recent tassels

of synthetic trade yarn


Pouches such as this one, are used by Aymara leaders as a symbol of power within their communities. The leaves of the coca plant are sacred to the Aymara and are used in social, ritual, and everyday life.

This mid-20th century coca pouch features two external pockets on the front side and fine, hand- stitched borders around three of the four sides; the tassels were a later addition. The four woven hourglass designs represent the opposing forces of hanan and hurin (upper and lower, the two halves of Andean duality) in Andean ideology.

This pouch is made of handspun sheep and llama wools and synthetic trade yarn (a later addition).