Human Flower Project
Nanduti Lace—Flower of Paraguay
In the hands of Guarani needleworkers, lace wheels of the Canary Islands turned into flowers.
Photo: Lace Fairy
Welcome to our visitors from Paraguay. Dry to the west, humid on the east, Paraguay possesses considerable botanical diversity, though as in so many places, deforestation is taking a toll on native plants and birds.
A lacemaker in Paraguay
Photo: Lace Fairy
“The forests of SE Brazil, NE Argentina and E Paraguay - known as Atlantic Interior Forest - bear the dubious distinction of at once being one of the most biodiverse yet most threatened ecosystems in the world.” Sixty years ago, 43% of the land was forest. “Today even the most conservative estimates suggest that no more than 12% of the original forest cover remains, and the general consensus is 5 to 8%. As a consequence, the remaining forests are one of the highest global conservation priorities.”
Located along the Tropic of Capricorn, Paraguay is home (for the moment) to some very rare and outrageous plants: take a peek at the calico flower, (Aristolochia littoralis).
We’re just as enthralled with another flower, perhaps more amazing because it’s not threatened by humans but woman-made: the delicate art of nanduti lace. These beauties are a traditional craft of Paraguay’s Guarani people. The forms and techniques were likely influenced by the Tenerife lacework of Canary Islanders who immigrated here, but to our eyes, wheel-like forms of the Old World have been turned into much more floral designs.
A recent example of nanduti lace
Photo: Merletti Lace
Look easy? Check out this close up, then flex your fingers and rub your eyes. A base of thread “spokes” (or petals) has been set down, and the intricate designs woven across those radiating lines. The craftsmanship of the old pieces is dazzling, and the looser, less symmetrical contemporary laces (some of them with colored threads) are beautiful too.
“Nanduti,” we learn, means not flower but “web” in the Guarani language. Flowers, rather, are in the mind of the needleworker and the eye of the beholder.