What happens after years of interacting with traditional artisans? One can’t help but see great potential in everything they do. From the way they live to their empirical design process, I couldn’t stop thinking about an imaginable future where these artisans could actually subsist through their art.
My name is Gabriela Valencia and I have worked with indigenous communities and artisan women of Panama for over ten years. I could say that architecture is at fault for my wandering curiosity towards traditional design. As a professional architect, I quickly became disenchanted by conventional design processes but through a stroke of luck I found my calling by experiencing social architecture through an international NGO. The monthly visits to the projects led me to meet some of my dearest friends who also happen to be indigenous women and artisans of the Embera and Wounaan communities.
The experience of sitting down with the community members (some didn't speak spanish) on a regular basis allowed me to acquire a deeper understanding of their accomplishments, challenges, hopes and dreams. The women specifically hold great pride towards their traditional skills and knowledge but are constantly at a crossroad on whether or not continuing the artistic traditions will be useful for the generations to come.
This challenging equation of how to collaborate with them on preserving their traditions while supporting their livelihoods empowered me to create Artisanas Trade. A community-led, small scale social enterprise that works to generate opportunities for indigenous women in Panama to sustain economic growth by exposing and selling their trade.
My hope is that through this initiative, more people are able to meet the women behind this world renowed trade. And, that their artistic skills not only serve the traditional craft market but that they become a pathway to equity and economic growth so that they can continue to see the worth in preserving their skills and traditions for the generations to come.
To know more about the culture and women behind the trade, please visit our site.