Anti-amnesia: the Viability of Millenary Weaving in a World of Acceleration


This paper presents a design research mediation process towards the sustenance of ancient weaving techniques in the Portuguese region of Almalaguês. It focuses on identity, traditions, knowledge and economic viability; actions comprise ethnography, archiving, design practices, and media and business strategies.

The project subscribes to the need to “consider the ways in which we contextualise and process the past” (ECAH 2019), a duty to re-inscribe and re-purpose material, narrative and processual heritage in a World often geared towards dictated obsolescence.

The case study at hand, Almalaguês, is a unique form of handweaving dating back close to a millennium. It embodies deep-rooted historical significance within deceptively modest aesthetics. Greco-roman and flora/fauna motifs have been made into exceptionally durable tapestry and bedding material, often passed down through generations as heirlooms, mirroring a continuity of knowledge systems as well as material, human and social narratives defining the cultural landscape.

However, this ancient craft faces an uncertain future beyond its current generation of aging practitioners: for decades now, it has seen a steady decline of markets and practice base, as artisans are ill-equipped to cope with the commercial realities of modern business. As a consequence, a wealth of traditional know-how is at risk of permanent loss.

The project is thus working in ongoing close contact with Almalaguês practitioners in order to consensually explore and develop ways to calibrate the above ecosystem into viable and beneficial cultural, narrative and business stands. Furthermore, a model will be drafted for testing and implementation in further contexts.

Author Information
Heitor Alvelos, University of Porto, Portugal
Susana Barreto, University of Porto, Portugal
Pedro Carvalho de Almeida, University of Aveiro, Portugal
Abhishek Chatterjee, University of Porto, Portugal
António João Gomes, Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal

Paper Information
Conference: ECAH2019
Stream: Arts - Social

This paper is part of the ECAH2019 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon