A woman's manta from Huancayo, Peru, 1970's. A woman's manta from Huancayo, Peru, 1970's. Copyright Trustees of the British Museum, London, acc. no. 1981,03.11.

Manta is a Spanish word for cloak. Traditional South American mantas are square or rectangular in shape and draped down the back. They are often woven from local cotton, sheep’s wool or alpaca. In some parts of Peru, men wear embroidered mantas during dances to celebrate local Roman Catholic saints’ days.

Unlike the daily version, the festive mantas often depict vivid scenes from comic books, historical battles, mythology, stylised birds and flowers. The festive Peruvian mantas are made of cotton or velvet and are embroidered by men with brightly coloured silk or metallic thread and decorated with appliqué, braids, glass beads, sequins and mirrors. An alto relieve technique is used by wrapping and stuffing shapes, related to the stump work found on some Spanish church vestments. Mantas are also embroidered for these festivals by men for their horses.

There are also special mantas that are commissioned by Peruvian women from male embroiderers for a costume dance called a chonguinada. Dancers wear masks and colonial-style costumes that represent Spanish ladies and gentlemen. The women’s mantas are worn over skirts and are elaborately embroidered with bright flower motifs. They are made from cotton cloth and embroidered with silk thread, glass beads and sequins. By the 1970's women would often rent the whole dance costume from a local embroiderer.

The term is sometimes used to describe a poncho, an indigenous Andean garment that is now worn, especially in rural areas, throughout South America and Mexico.

British Museum online catalogue (retrieved 25th June 2016).


Last modified on Monday, 19 June 2017 17:11
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