Under the Wayuu Artisan Women’s Initiative headed by Aid to Artisans (ATA) and CREATA with the support of the Walmart Foundation, more than 16 Wayuu artisan groups representing more than 400 artisans have garnered great success. With the mission to provide economic opportunities to more than 800 Wayuu artisans in northern Colombia, ATA and CREATA administered business trainings, product design support, new market development, and direct linkages to buyers throughout Colombia and North America.
As a result of the project, 300 new products were designed with CREATA’s product development team. More than 40 training workshops were conducted in business reinforcement, internet marketing research, costing and pricing, use of raw material, and production techniques. The 16 Wayuu artisan groups participated in several regional and international trade fairs including, ColombiaModa, Expoartesanias, and the New York International Gift Fair (NY Now). More than 30 local and international buyers placed orders with the Wayuu community, generating more than $200,000 in sales. Since the beginning of the project, the artisans experienced a 231% increase of their income.
Here’s some information about a few of the artisan groups who participated in the project:
Wapulee is a small association that produces ceramics decorated with woven cords and tassels. They live in Nortechon near the city of Uribia and currently employ seven women and two men who produce 300 pieces per month.
Jeketuu which means “Innovation / New” in Wayunaki, is a small association that produces leather goods as hand bags, cosmetic bags and wallets in goat fur, plain cow leather and cow hide with traditional wayuu weaves. They live in the city of Uribia. Currently there are seven women employed producing 50 bags per month.
Waasapatsha is a small artisan group that produces sandals from recycled materials. Meaning “traditional shoes” in Wayunnaiki, Waasapatsha workers live in the rural area of Pancho and meet at the local school where they’ve been given a room to store their machinery and tools. Currently Waasapatsha employs four women and produces 120 pieces per month.
Rouya’a is an association of artisans located in the Santa Rita community of La Guajira, northern Colombia. Using glass and paint to produce a variety of home decor products such as plates, clocks and vases, Rouya’a has built a successful business which produces 350 pieces per month and employs three women and two men.
Suna’a is a small association that produces the traditional “mochila” bags which are woven in colorful acrylic thread. They live in the rural area of Chispana where five families share the space.
Ouliwou is an association that produces mantas, the traditional dress for women of the Wayuu community. The manta is a flowing dress with intricate embroidery along the neckline and sleeves. Famed Colombian designer Hernan Zajar, worked with Ouliwou to modernize the look while at the same time preserving the craft of the culture. Today Ouliwou employs 17 women and produces 50 pieces per month for local markets. In 2009 Hernan Zajar received the Artisan Advocate Award at the 2009 Aid to Artisans Awards Gala in New York City.
Areket is a small association in the Wayuu area of Colombia that produces a line of home décor products and accessories. Working in acrylic thread and sometimes with recycled materials, the artisans crochet intricate patterns and designs as part of their product. Areket means “spider” in Wayuunaiki, the indigenous language of the Wayuu. The spider was selected as their corporate image based on the ancient legend which tells the story of how spiders taught the people to weave. At the 2011 New York International Gift Fair, Areket was honored with the SustainAbility: design for a better world® Award for innovation in using recycled and eco-friendly materials.