Contextual Material

Cecilia Vicuña

Cecilia Vicuña

"Word & Thread"

Word is thread and the thread is language.

Nonlinear body.

A line associated to other lines.

A word once written risks becoming linear,
but word and thread exist on another dimensional

Vibratory forms in space and in time.

Acts of union and separation.


The word is silence and sound.
The thread, fullness and emptiness.


The weaver sees her fiber as the poet sees her word.

The thread feels the hand, as the word feels the tongue.

Structures of feeling in the double sense
of sensing and signifying,
the word and the thread feel our passing.


Is the word the conducting thread, or does thread
conduct the word-

Both lead to the center of memory, a way of uniting and

A word carries another word as thread searches for

A word is pregnant with other words and a thread
other threads within its interior.

Metaphors in tension, the word and the thread carry us
threading and speaking, to what unites us, the immortal


To speak is to thread and the thread weaves the world.


In the Andes, the language itself, Quechua, is a cord of
twisted straw,
two people making love, different fibers united.

To weave a design is pallay, to raise the fibers, to pick
them up.

To read in Latin is legere, to pick up.

The weaver is both weaving and writing a text
that the community can read.

An ancient textile is an alphabet of knots, colors, and
that we can no longer read.

Today the weaving not only “represent,” they themselves
one of the beings of the Andean cosmogony (E. Zorn)


Ponchos, llijllas, aksus, winchas, chuspas, and chumpis
are beings
who feel
and every being who feels walks covered in

“The body given entirely to the function of

René Daumal

A textile is “in the state of being textile”: awaska.

And one word, acnanacuna designates the clothing, the
and the instruments for sacrifice (for signifying, I would


And the energy of the movement has a name and a
direction: lluq’i,
to the left, paña, to the right.

A direction is a meaning and the twisting of the thread
transmits knowledge and information.

The last two movements of a fiber should be in

a fiber is made of two strands lluq’i and paña.

A word is both root and suffix: two antithetical
meanings in one.
The word and the thread behave as processes in the

The process is a language and a woven design is a
process re-
presenting itself.

“An axis of reflection,” says Mary Frame:

“the serpentine
attributes are images of the fabric structure,”
The twisted strands become serpents
and the crossing of darkness and light, a diamond star.

“Sprang is a weftless technique, a reciprocal action
whereby the
interworking of adjacent elements with the fingers
duplicates itself
above and below the working area.”

The fingers entering the weave produce in the fibers
a mirror image of its movement, a symmetry that
reiterates “the concept
of complementarity that imbues Andean thought.”


The thread dies when it is released, but it comes alive in

the tension gives it a heart.

Soncco, is heart and guts, stomach and conscience,
judgement, and reason, the wood’s core, the stem’s

The word and the thread are the heard of the

In order to dream, the diviner sleeps on fabric made of


Translated from the Spanish by Rosa Alcalá, from Cecilia Vicuña,“Word and Thread” (Palabra e Hilo) (Edinburgh: Morning Star Publications, 1996). The poem appears here courtesy of the author.