Hello Colombia! We’re welcoming new artisans into the family.

Zenú Artisan, Reinel Mendoza Montalvo

While the Zenú artisans may be new to NOVICA, they are hardly new to the world. An indigenous people from Colombia, the Zenú have been planting, cultivating, preparing, and braiding caña flecha (cane fiber) for hundreds of years. Now, it is our honor to showcase their work.

Caña flecha traces its own roots to the construction of early dwellings and fishing rods. But the fiber has evolved over the years, and it now makes its stunning, braided appearance on handbags, jewelry, hats, and more. The process is lengthy and requires many hands. A single sombrero vueltaio (turned hat) is a practice in patience and fine handiwork.

First, the fiber is dried, then the veins are removed with a knife. The strands are tinted in natural, plant-based dyes and buried in the ground for two weeks. Only then are the fibers woven into intricate braids. And the braids themselves are no simple feat. Sometimes a single braid will be woven by hand from 28 fibers! The sombrero is complete only when the pieces have been sewn together with a foot-driven sewing machine.

Woven into the hat are designs of geometric symbols and patterns, used to designate specific clans within the Zenú Tribe. The depiction of different plants and animals reveals not only a particular clan’s territory, but narratives passed down through generations about life, family, religion, and more.

To keep traditions alive, the Zenú teach caña flecha at a local children’s school. Craftwork meets oral history in each item they create. The Zenú artisans hope that their customers come to know the stories behind their products. Our hope is that they receive the warm welcome they so rightly deserve.

Stay tuned for the launch of our new Colombia region page on NOVICA in early 2022, and to discover how The Zenú artisans lent their artistry to the magic of Disney’s new film, Encanto.


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