One of HOPE’s artisanal partners in the materialization of a fair trade model is the Eperara Siapidara indigenous community. Located in the southwestern region of the Colombian territory, they feed their identity from both Pacific and Andean atmospheres and create beautiful woven patterns of both exquisite manufacture and social sense.
Graphic patterns, delicately woven shapes, luscious colors or neutral and down to earth hues are some of the visual motifs that can be found in the artisanal work of this indigenous community. Beautiful clutches, woven baskets, and envelope bags are part of the repertoire of fair trade handbags and home décor objects promoted by HOPE, as a platform that strives to engage with symmetrical production models and ethical ways of producing style objects.
These objects, 100% handmade, organic and produced within ethical frameworks of transparency and fairness, are bound to be “conversation pieces” wherever they are placed. Whether you are styling a personal look with one of the clutches, adorning an intimate space with one of the vases or baskets, these pieces all distill a sense of uniqueness that comes from the temporality of handmade artifacts. They symbolize the conservation of tradition, the singularity of a carefully kept know-how. And they also subvert the overwhelming sense of homogeneity that has overcome a digitalized world where everything seems to be mass-produced and serially made. As these objects may strike a conversation about their place of origin and how you acquired them, they can also lead to other meaningful realities, considering that whenever you purchase an object produced by the Eperara Siapidara indigenous community on the HOPE platform, you are also supporting an all-women association who were violently displaced by the guerrilla armed forces in Colombia.
Each purse, for example, takes from five to seven days to be made. Handbags, clutches and all of the basketry produced have the chocolatillo fiber and the tetera straw as their primary source, this second one a material that comes from the tetera tree. Both sources are found locally in the region. These natural fibers are picked, dyed and then transformed into handcrafted objects that also reflect how local contexts and their peculiar sources and atmospheres can materialize singular forms of material culture. Their uniqueness distills from its dazzling handcrafted quality but also from the very conditions that allow it to acquire its shapes and hues. This is also a common trait within ethical fashion schemes, where there is a sense of uniqueness that comes from the irreplaceable elements of the local culture where these objects stem from.
The Eperara Siapidara indigenous community preserves its ancestral understandings of the world and it expresses its sense of knowledge through two spatial ranges – the ethereal world (Jai), which connects to spirits and shadows and the physical world, the very ecosystem where society expresses itself in different ways. Their social structure, for example, is based on a family organized sense of agricultural work and the community is lead by a female figure, a spiritual chief, mother and priestess known as Tachi Nawe. Sometimes, physical aspects of a culture can also help to explain the shapes and forms that are often found in their very symbols. Traditional forms in living structures, known as tambo, with conic ceilings and raised above the ground, are often wooden frames with rectangular or circular shapes, proportions which are notoriously found in the patterns embedded in the hand made objects the community is known for making. This also speaks about the authenticity these communities endow into the material culture they enliven.
This community is also an interesting mirror of the way syncretism is the heart of Colombian historical and cultural processes. The Eperara Siapidara is part of a larger configuration known as embera, which has fed and nurtured itself from indigenous, black and white communities as well. This incredibly rich sense of mixture is one of Colombia’s major traits when it comes to diversity and exuberance. This is also reflected by the natural quality of the primary sources that compose these beautiful objects.
The tetera tree fibers are all hand-picked, manually peeled and dried away from the sun. Once they are dried, they are flattened out in order to extract the singular pulp found in the process. The chocolatillo fiber, on the other hand, which makes most of the basketry work made by this community, is dyed in several colors. The yellow hue is the result of a process in which the fiber is boiled and mixed with other sorts of leaves. The black tone comes from cooking the fiber and then burying it in a mud area, for several days, in order to seal the color. The ingenious combination of fibers in two or three colors allows for a wider array of creative possibilities. The women are able to provide a shiny effect on the fiber by engaging in an arduous process carried out with knives and machetes.
These natural, hand made processes, which respond to ancestral traditions and peculiar circumstances provided by local settings, are all a significant component in fair trade production models. These models aim to rescue tradition and unique handcrafted creations in symmetrical commercial processes. Communities are respected and valued within the constant search for transparency and fairness. Style is produced through both a sense of aesthetic values but most especially by channeling ethical ways of manufacture, commercialization, and consumption. HOPE’s philosophy and vision are to disperse this way of looking at stylish objects and décor pieces, as opportunities to create fairness as the main substance.
Written by: Vanessa Rosales