After more than 50 years of armed conflict in Colombia, the more recently implemented peace process is progressing slowly, partly because of its cultural and ecological complexity. Indigenous communities in the north of the country have been one of the most affected by the conflict and their intervention to retain and repair their land, human and environmental loss is considered fundamental.
Inmakulate’s project Beyond Craft looks at the interwoven links between craft creative processes and its relationship with ecological and social healing. Our team have been invited by the Wayu and Kogi indigenous communities of Colombia on various occasions, in an attempt to observe and interpret their approach to materiality.
These communities reinforce the importance of our relationship with nature as a way to maintain balance and wellbeing in all socio-ecological realms.
In the last 3 decades, Kogi leaders, have been actively engaged in ecological and political activism to protect the Sierra Nevada area from further environmentally harmful developments. More precisely, they have attempted to raise awareness and understanding among the wider public about how and why some human activities are destructive according to their knowledge and connection to their natural environment.
One of the ways they express this notion is through material-making from plants, their practise of materials craft is fundamental in the way they communicate their ecological awareness and tell their story. The Kogi word Zigoneshi translates: I give you – you give me; we exchange. For them, land and soil are sacred and all processes, from harvesting to spinning, knitting and woven natural resources are revered as part of earth’s ecological equilibrium. They accentuate that whatever humans borrow (take) from the land should be given back (to the land) in an equal uncontaminated and respectful manner.
Our research found that there is concern within their groups about the lack of biodegradable materials being used in the production of craft pieces in the larger community of the north of Colombia. Furthermore, there has been an increase in the use of industrially made polyester yarns, potentially placing some of their traditional material-making practices at risk of disappearing. This is partly because the accelerated tourism industry has opened new markets that prefer to buy cheap crafts.
The last phase of our project was documenting data in the lower region of the Sierra Nevada mountains with the Tayku, Kogi community but was put on hold due to the pandemic. For our next phase, we are looking to create a library of local biodegradable materials and their connexion to ecological wellbeing. This phase also runs a pilot programme of biomaterial making workshops from waste. If you’re interested to learn more about it or would like to collaborate, fund or participate, please get in touch.