Why Colombia? Colombia is the fourth most extensive country in South America and the only country to posess both a Pacific and a Carribean coast.
Colombia boasts an abundance of nature and is the second most biodiversified country in the world. This natural wealth is found throughout its numerous humid and fluvial areas, Amazon jungle, Carribean savanahs, Andean forests etc.
With a population of over 46 million, Colombia defines itself as a multiracial nation, with an ethnic mix of races the majority of which coming from Europe, mainly Spain and Italy. There is also a large population of African origin as well as smaller groups descended from Asia and North America. The indigenous population, which makes up 3.4% of the total population, owns 27% of the land and maintains, up to a point, autonomy to manage its community affairs, run its health systems, have control over its own education and hold jurisdiction over its own territory.
The topographical conditions of the Amazon and the Andes, added to the prolonged political conflict, have created a specific social phenomenon where different cultures and migratory groups have remained isolated, developing particular and exclusive artistic traditions and customs.
This has given Colombia an extraordinary variety of cultural expressions that explains its enormous musical and artisanal wealth.
Through the association Artesanías de Colombia, an organism dedicated to the diffusion and preservation of the traditional crafts of Colombia, we had the opportunity to colaborate with groups of artisans from the Cauca region who had been displaced by guerrilla war to Bogota.
In this first phase of the project we have tried to give these artisans, who are found living in Bogota in very poor conditions, uprooted from their land and their culture, a livelihood thanks to their traditional knowledge.
We developed the workshop together with two distinct ethnic groups, the Eperara-Siapidara and the Guambianos, throughout the month of August 2012. We followed a very natural process in which the artisans were teaching us how their traditional craftsmanship is, and at the same time, we were introducing them the plastic bottle and experimenting the integration of the plastic with their natural fibres.
The artisans always have the freedom to apply their symbolic drawings and patterns and choose the colours they will weave with. This makes every single lamp an unique piece and a new project in which the artisan has the opportunity to express their cosmogony.
Colombian artisans usually buy their materials and organize workshops in groups in order to create their handcrafts. Weaving becomes a community work, which contributes to strengthen social relationships and enrich final results.
The Eperara-Siapidara are original from the littoral region of Cauca, a hot zone where the “Paja Tetera” palm tree is abundantly found. This is the source of the fibres for their traditional crafts which they die with locally found natural pigments.
Traditionally, their economy is based on the production of bananas, chivo, pineapple, papachina and fish, usually used for their own consumption. Just a few quantity is finally commercialized towards other regions placed near San Bernardo and Saija rivers.
This recently resettled community has been displaced from Bogota city and had to adapt to a totally new and different reality. Entire families, with members of all ages, have stayed together and have taken along with them their customs and traditions.
The Guambianos, despite of their geographical proximity to the Eperara-Siapidara, are an ethnic group from a cold zone situated in the central mountain range of the Andes and with a tradition which they have preserved from before the Incas. Guambianos are a traditionally agricultural community. Nonetheless, wool and cotton textile items produced by women have become famous worldwide, thanks to their characteristical patterns and weaving technique in vertical loom. Women typically use spindles and looms for their handcrafts.
The character of their country and the symbolism of their culture are reflected in every woven piece. The wide range of colours of their clothes is not random actually. The blue colour of their long skirts is inspired by the clear sky and fuchsia symbolizes the blood. The rich colours of their accessories and specially the black ones are a vivid description of the Guambianos’ soil fertility. The colours do not only have a deep meaning in their lives but they beautifully paint the surrounding landscape.
Alvaro Catalán de Ocón
Enrique Romero de la Llana
Colombia local partner:
Assesed in Colombia by:
Artesanías de Colombia
Sponsored in Colombia by: