Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Exploring the World in a Weekend - Scenes from Santa Fe's International Folk Art Market

One of the great events in the wide arc of fantastic events that Santa Fe is famous for is the International Folk Art Festival. It is also the one weekend in the year that I get to travel the world without leaving very far from home.

This year 147 artists from 45 countries, from as faraway as Kazakhstan and Swaziland, came to Santa Fe "bearing the crafts, the heritage and hopes of their people". The Santa Fe International Folk Art Festival is largely undertaken to help preserve the artistic traditions and diverse cultural identities from some of the most marginalized communities around the world by teaching them sustainable entrepreneurship and empowering them to raise their own money though the age-old traditions of folk art. Meet some of the artists that came to Santa Fe:

Elhadji Koumama - Niger

Ehadji is a nomadic Tuareg from Niger. The Koumama family works in several small groups of two to 15 men fashioning engraved and bejeweled silver amulets and pendants that encase a selection from the Koran and are designed to protect the wearer from evil spirits. The pieces are made from a lost wax method, then engraved and hammered and adorned with stones.

Sabina Ramirez - Guatemala

Since she began to weave at her mother's side at age 8, Guatemala's Sabina Ramirez has received many honors for both her weaving and representing her native Mayan community as an Ixil nation princess. Her textiles, woven with meticulous attention to detail, are crafted in the ancestral tradition on the back strap loom.

Pedro Meza - Chiapas, Mexico
Pedro Meza heads up the award-winning cooperative, Sna Jolobil, in Chiapas, Mexico, an association of 800 weavers. The cooperative provides training, supplies raw materials, and markets the members’ work. All of the work represented is traditional Highland Maya handwork. The work of Sna Jolobil artists is considered to be some of the finest examples of contemporary Maya textile art. This is Pedro's fifth appearance a the festival.

Namgey Wangmo - Bhutan

Namgey displays both weaving and woodcarving - two of the 13 arts and crafts from that country. Ornate textiles are handwoven on backstrap looms and passed down through the generations from mother to daughter. Woodcarving is typically done by men and learned through two-to-three year apprenticeships. Ceremonial masks of mythical animals and Buddhist deities are carved from blue pine, juniper, rhododendron, burl and cypress and then painted with colorful, organic dyes.

Idaia Amade - Mozambique

Idaia was born and raised in Palma, a Muslim farming community in rural Mozambique. At the age of 6 her mother taught her how to weave mats - a time-consuming process using tightly woven palms strips sewn together in unique, brightly colored combinations.

Chijnaya - Peru

Each piece of embroidered bordado tells a specific story of an aspect of daily life in the Andean village of Chijnaya in Peru. The works stems from a peace corp project that began with children in the 1960's in an effort to give them a voice and an expression of their cultural identity. Ralph Bolton, a former peace corp volunteer in Chijnaya - started the Chijnaya foundation which seeks to improve living conditions there by giving community support to art, agriculture, animal husbandry and health.

Esther Nikwambi Mahlangu - Ndebele, South Africa

As a young girl in South Africa, Esther Nikwambi Mahlangu worked with her mother and grandmother beading and painting in what is a way of life for the Ndebele people who are famous for the way they decorate their clothes and homes in bright colors. Mama Esther is a master artist who has trained future artisans from 22 communities in these vibrant cultural traditions.

Moussa Albaka - Tuareg, Niger
As a metal-smith Albaka designs gorgeous jewelry using sterling silver, Tuareg silver and semi-precious stones. His techniques include engraving intricate geometric designs, using decorative inlay, and a lost wax process. Many of his pieces show the repoussé style by which he hammers a shape on the reverse side which creates a raised design on the front. The repoussé style is a slow process taking hundreds of hours, but it maximizes the touch, feel, and visual beauty of the bracelet or necklace and amulet. Albaka also fashions veil weights jewelry which follows the Tuareg tradition of using an elaborate, inventive design. This jewelry is worn by women to hold their head cloths in place.
Albaka is from Agadez which is just south of the great Saharan desert. Niger is landlocked and the drought cycles are evident. Albaka was born in a nomad tent and as a young man traveled with camel caravans. The Tuareg are semi-nomadic but their artwork remains intact and is highly distinctive. This folk art is mostly passed down through the male side of the family to families of the “enad” or blacksmith caste. Albaka was taught by his father and uncles and in turn he teaches his sons and nephews who work for him. Moussa Albaka is an acclaimed artist and is highly regarded by his peers.

Nurse Thembeni Mdluli - Swaziland

Phez’kwemkhono is a Swazi call for women and translates to, “your hands, your brain, and your entire being are your wealth.” The cooperative is located in the driest region in the country where farming is close to impossible and more than 80% of the population depends on food aid. The only source of potable water for this community is a borehole, and most have to walk for hours to get there. Nurse Thembeni, along with women from neighboring communities, formed a cooperative with the aim of making crafts to feed their families and improve the community’s livelihood. The group now has 54 basket weavers and 37 beadworkers.

Juana Cano Sebastian - Michoacan, Mexico

Handwoven cotton rebozos, or long scarves, are a traditional craft from the Purépecha village of Turicuaro in Michoacán, Mexico. Juana creates solid and striped rebozos. She soaks the cotton in a large tub before forming it into balls and weaving with it. Juana leads a group of 147 women who make rebozos. on handmade backstrap looms. The looms are portable and can be attached to a tree, allowing the women to work outside. The women of Turicuaro are carrying on a tradition of weaving that has been going on for hundreds of years. Generations ago all the women in the community were weavers. Today, fewer and fewer women continue the tradition. Juana’s work ensures that this craft is kept alive.

Ambu Gowri Bai - India
The Lambani people are the forebears of the Romani people of Europe. Vibrant textiles are created by arranging mirrors, brightly colored threads, and shells into numerous designs and a rich repertoire of motifs. The distinctive mirrored and embroidered dress of Lambani women indicate their married status, and form the dowry of young girls who begin to make them at an early age.
Sandur Kushala Kala Kendra is organized into self-help groups of 15 to 20 women. The Kendra now includes 300 craftswomen, with an additional 100 in training.

Papier Mache from Haiti

The city of Jacmel in southern Haiti is the birthplace of colorful costumes and papier maché masks used to celebrate Carnival. Recently, hurricanes so badly damaged Jacmel that most of the papier maché was destroyed by devastating floods and artisans completely lost their means of livelihood for several months. The artists quickly began producing more work so they would have inventory to use to apply to the Market. This cooperative has 307 artisans, one of which is Pierre Edgard, the president, who will bring the work of this cooperative that is so important to the economic life of this community.

Truck Art - Pakistan
Ghulam Sarwar always admired the brightly colored flamboyant trucks painted with images of idealized landscapes, famous personalities, flowers and trees that reminded truck drivers of their homes on their long journeys down south. He and other truck artists have imaginatively adapted this traditional art form to include smaller household items painted in the style of truck art. These objects are used in homes and street side cafés. Ghulam and others take on apprentices to teach them the visual language of truck art motifs to keep this threatened art form alive.
Ghulam Sarwar, together with fellow truck artists, were recipients of the UNESCO Award of Excellence in 2008.

The annual folk art market in Santa Fe is now the largest international folk art market in the world, and its success led to Santa Fe’s designation as a UNESCO City of Folk Art, the first U.S. city named to UNESCO’s prestigious Creative Cities Network. The mission of the market is to foster economic and cultural sustainability for folk artists and folk art worldwide and to create intercultural exchange opportunities that unite the peoples of the world.

Paper Art from Mexico
Many of the Market artists are from developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Central Asia, Eurasia, and the Middle East where they confront daunting political, social, and environmental conditions.
Some Market participants also include women’s cooperatives and humanitarian organizations whose work supports improving economic conditions and the quality of life for many- sometimes hundreds- of folk artists in their home communities.
The impact of the Market on the artists’ home communities is considerable. In many cases, artists use earnings for food, clothing, healthcare, education, and as an investment in their growing business enterprises.

The 2010 festival is scheduled for the weekend of July 10 and 11.


Wilma said...

What a fantastic market! Your photos and text give a tantalizing taste of what your experience must have been. Thanks!

Gaelyn said...

OMGosh, what an amazing gathering of talent. I'd go crazy at a market like that. You wrote a marvelous post and truly captured some great portrait shots.

Lana Gramlich said...

Wow. I'm totally jealous. What a wonderful experience that was! I'm glad for the heads up--perhaps we can head over that way some time in the future!

Unknown said...

Love the pictures and commentary, Tim! I absolutely loved the market! Wonderful experience! By the way, it was great running into you in one of the booths! I can't wait to go again next July!

Jennifer Chronicles ( said...

You have such a talent for capturing people looking into the camera. When I took my camera to the Paseo Arts Festival, I could not get one person to look at me. How do you do it?? Beautiful colors, beautiful world my friend.

Stark Raving Zen said...

I love this! Thank you so much for allowing us to experience it, through your gorgeous photography! It makes me that much more excited to move to New Mexico in 5 weeks.

doorways traveler said...

You've captured such beautiful beings and their stories. Simply stunning. Sounds like an incredible event.
Best, Lisa

Dawn Fine said...

wow..wonderful! Thanks for sharing this excellent market and info.

Julie Zickefoose said...

You have brought your gift for drawing people out to Santa Fe. What a gorgeous hogchoker of a post. I glowed, having bought some of the Latin American creations right from their makers. Maya textiles drive me NUTS and I have lots of rebozos, too.
Gorgeous things, gorgeous faces, unbelievable color. Thanks for throwing in the lovely gringa, too. Perfect counterpoint!

Are you afraid to be at home alone? Security systems here.


Judith Haden said...

Tim, your coverage of the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe is superlative, in both the text and the photos. Thank you so much for this coverage, it really helps the cause!


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