Q'eros, Peru, 1956

Hidden Threads of Peru:
Q'ero Textiles

by Ann Pollard Rowe and John Cohen
Co-published by The Textile Museum, Washington, DC and Merrell Publishers, London
due February 2002

Exhibition at The Textile Museum, March 21 - August 4, 2002.


In 2006, John Cohen presented his film “Peruvian Weaving: A Continuous Wrap” at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, Spain, in conjunction with the exhibit “Anni & Josef Albers.”


In 1957 Cohen wrote his MFA thesis at Yale University, titled "Contemporary Weaving of the Peruvian Indians." In an unprecedented study, he wandered across the regions of Peru for six months, gathering information from the Indians about how they made their textiles. He also made a collection of the ethnographic textiles from Q'ero for the American Museum of Natural History.

In 1964 he returned to Peru with his wife Penny, and together they recorded traditional music in many of the same areas he had visited in the 50's. These were the first recordings of Peruvian music done with a portable Nagra tape recorder, and probably were the first recordings done in people's homes and in isolated regions. All previous music recordings of Andean music had been made in studio situations. He edited and annotated the field recordings and produced the album "Mountain Music of Peru" for Folkways records in 1965. It was later re-issued on two CDs by Smithsonian Folkways.

In 1976-77 he produced his first documentary film in Peru titled Q'eros: The Shape of Survival. It was shown on PBS NOVA in 1979 as Patterns from the Past. Subsequently he made the film Peruvian Weaving, A Continuous Warp-for 5,000 Years. With a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1983 and 1984 he produced the film Mountain Music of Peru, followed by Choqela: Only Interpretation. In 1988-89 with a Fulbright Fellowship, he made Carnival in Q'eros and Dancing with The Incas (which was shown on BBC TV). All these films were premiered at the Margaret Mead Film Festival in New York.

He has also produced four recordings of Andean music for Arhoolie Records. The first, Your Struggle Is Your Glory (only on LP) features music from his films. In 1989 he produced Huayno Music of Peru, an anthology of commercial recordings from the archives of the Peruvian company IEMPSA, and a second anthology of Huayno recordings from the company Discos Smith. Finally he produced an anthology of Peruvian music from Discos Smith, From the Mountains to the Sea, covering Andean, Marinera, and coastal music heard on commercial recordings from the 50s through the 70s.

His photographs of Peru have been published in Aperture Magazine (1972), and exhibited at the Limelight Gallery (I957), at Yale University Art Gallery (1958), the Side Gallery in Newcastle, England, and at the Photo Eye Gallery in Santa Fe, NM.

He has given talks on Andean textiles and music at the American Museum of Natural History, at the ethnomusicology department at Wesleyan University, at the Brown University Haffenrefer Museum conference on ethnographic textiles from Central and South America, and at conferences on Andean archaeology and ethnohistory. He constructed and supervised the recording of ancient pre-Columbian Peruvian musical instruments for the permanent installation in the Andean hall at the American Museum of Natural History. In 1999 he donated another collection of Peruvian textiles to the Textile Museum in Washington DC. His recording of a Peruvian girl is included on Voyager Spacecraft's "Music of the Earth".