WATI collective isn't just about selling beautiful crafts, our aim is to support economic empowerment of the groups we work with and cultivate connection to and appreciation for their traditions and skills.
We work in direct collaboration with all our artisan groups to build ethical and sustainable trade as well as encouraging the development of their own enterprises.
You can find out more about the wonderful artisans that make up the WATI collective below.
The Arhuaco are one of four indigenous groups native to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The Arhuaco culture is incredibly complex, their beliefs, spirituality and traditions are based upon a deep reverence and connection to the natural world and their relationship to it.
To the Arhuaco, the Sierra is the heart of the Earth and their role is to protect it.
Colonization,conflict and the drug trade have deeply affected all the indigenous groups of the Sierra, and while the Arhuaco have historically been incredibly well organized, they continue to face threats to their land and culture.
We work with a group of 10 Arhuaco women from the high mountains within the sacred valley of Nabusimake. They face many of the challenges common to artisans throughout the world.
We are are working with this group of Arhuaco women to promote their traditional techniques and open up international markets so they can be paid fair prices - prices set by them. As a collective of strong, passionate and kind women they also hope to develop their business to include more women and a community fund where part of their income supports others in need and can develop community projects such as collective small scale farming and agriculture.
The Kankuamo are one other of the four indigenous groups native to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The Kankuamo, living in the lower parts of the Sierra are said to be the keepers of the region, protecting those higher up the mountain.
The Kankuamo have been directly affected by the conflict in the region and as a result of years of insecurity and displacement they had lost much of their cultural traditions. In recent years they have reclaimed a sense of their cultural identity partly through the reemergence of their traditional weaving techniques and the interest in their craftmanship and also through the wider recognition of the other three indigenous groups native to the Sierra. The mochila, for the Kankuamo represents the reclaiming of their identity and community within the indigenous groups of the Sierra and beyond.
The group we work with were already an established artisan group when we met but have continued to develop and grow as popularity and demand for thier mochilas has grown.
The harvesting, preparing and dyeing of the agave fibre used to make their bags is done collectively, all members getting together to work as a group.
THE EMBERA CHAMI
The Embera Chami are one of the largest indigenous groups in Colombia. Tragically, they have also been deeply affected by colonization and years of conflict and so hundreds of thousands of Embera have been displaced from their ancestral lands.
We work with one family of Embera Chami, having fled conflict and violence in their lands, they live in the capital Bogota where we first met them selling their beautiful jewelry on the streets.
The jewelry of the Embera consists of intricate loom free woven bead work in bright and bold designs. The Embera were weaving with seeds long before the spanish arrived in Colombia, from then they began to trade food and resources for the colourful glass beads from Europe and from here is where their weaving developed into what it is today.
The jewelry is imbued with meaning for the Embera - The colours, designs, shapes and sizes all represent aspects of the natural and spiritual worlds to which their culture is deeply connected.
Whilst some Embera artisans reproduce certain designs for selling, they all have their unique aesthetic, design and colour combinations.
We first brought from this family for their distinguishing colour combinations and now we work together on a permanent collection which combines traditional patterns and our own designs.
The Wounaan are primarily from the Western region of Colombia in the department of Choco. The Wounaan community have lived through much violence and conflict and the family we work with live as displaced people in the capital Bogota where they have a strong community of support and collaboration.
The Wounaan are renowned for their uniquely crafted Werregue baskets woven from the Werregue palm and traditionally dyed with native plants and fruits. The intense black dye featured in many of the baskets is made from the jagua seed.
The designs of the basket are all entirely unique, for the Wounaan their baskets, although originally made for carrying water have evolved into pieces of art, each with their own unique spirit and design.
The designs you see are often depictions of daily life or expressions of the rich nature of their native Choco.
The family we are working with are master weavers and a strong and established group of makers. Our aim for working together is to open up new markets for them and encourage and support the entrepreneurial spirit of the younger generation who are passionate about taking their families craftmanship into the future.
We work with two established groups of artisans from the Chimichagua area in Cesar, Colombia. They produce beautiful handwoven mats or 'esteras'.
The esteras were born from a simple palm mat that was used to sleep on and have evolved to include an incredible array of patterns, colours and designs. While there are designs common to many, each artisan has her unique style and many continue to produce entirely unique pieces, pushing their creative design and expression.
The artisan groups we work with come together to harvest and dye the palm used for the mats and work is shared out between all members of the group.