Aymara People of Bolivia

Totura Reed Boat Building Exhibit

Presented at the National Museum of the American Indian

Dates: September & October 2005

This image is from the second floor of the National Museum of the American Indian of the final exhibits of boats constructed by three different tribes. The boat on the left is a Hawaiian boat and the boat on the right is a kyac from an Eskimo tribe. Located in the back is the Aymara Reed boat which was constructed on site by reed boating building experts from Boliva in South America.

This online exhibit is shares images of the Aymara people who constructed the reed boat. The reed boat is a representation of the Aymara people who use them on Lake Titicaca. Lake Titicaca is located at approximately 10,000 feet above sea level between the countries of Bolivia and Puru in South America. In the native language, "titi" means cat and "caca" means cave. It represents the story of a sacred cat that resides at the bottom of the lake. In honor of that, the reed boats are decorated with the head of a cat in front of the boat.

The boat was constructed with reeds that were imported from Bolivia along with twine that held these the boat together. One expert boat builder and his apprentice constructed the boat on site.

Constructing the Boat

Reed weaving the boat. This image shows the raw reeds being woven together to make the main part of the boat.



The base of the two main part of the boat are laid out and woven together.



Construction of the "heart" of the boat takes place. The "heart"is the narrower bundle of reeds located at the back of the display of the two main parts. The "heart" of the boat is will be place in the center of the two main parts.



To the two main parts, bulks of reed are added to "thinken" these portions.



This image shows the tying of the bulk down of the two main parts of the boat.



Once the bulk is added, finalized tying down of the reeds take place.



The final two parts are covered with reeds to make smooth.



The three main parts of the reed boat. Atop of one of the main parts, is the heart.



The twine of the boat was made in Bolivia and used in the construction of the boat.




The heard is added to the parts and are ready to be pulled together.



The twine is used to pull the three parts together. The heart is in the center and will be completely immersed by the two main parts.



This tool is used to pull the twine and tighten the pieces together.




The main parts are continually being tightened.




The twine is being tightened with the tool.




The main parts of the boat are almost complete and construction of the edges takes place.




The edge of the boat is constructed .




The edge of the boat are smoothed out with this special type of technique to hide the seams.



Tightening of the main part of the boat is done while the reeds are drying.



The edges of the boat are tied on to the main portions.



The twine helps secure the edges as it is secured to the main parts of the boat.



This little wooden piece is used to turn up the edges of the boat.



The "titi" head is build for the front.



The head of the cat just before it is place on the boat.



The teeth of the cat are make from reeds as well.



The cat head is attached to the boat.



This image was taken from an exhibit that shows a picture of an example of a finished reed boat in Lake Titicaca.


The construction of this boat was done by two experts from Bolivia. The time it took them to build the boat was approximately two weeks. Continued tightening of the reeds were done long after that to ensure it dried properly. The boat is currently on exhibit in the main entrance of the National Museum of the American Indian.