Helsinki Finnish-Colombian duo Lari Elovainio and Elena Fadul introduced the concept for Aluna Art at Spalt PR in Helsinki, on Friday, June 26th. The brand aims at saving and preserving ancestral crafts and cultures, through the commercialisation of authentic pieces hand-made by the company’s partner associations in Colombia.
“This business goes beyond being a fair trade business, this is about protecting human history and diversity, languages, skills and crafts that are being lost to modernisation and westernisation” says Elena Fadul, founder and a Colombian native herself.
Aluna introduced pieces by two ancestral communities from Colombia, the Wayúu and the Emberá-Chamí. The collection consisted of traditional Wayúu mochilas, or bucket bags, an emblematic accessory of Colombian indigenous peoples and costume jewellery by the Emberá-Chamí.
“This business goes beyond being a fair trade business, this is about protecting human history and diversity, languages, skills and crafts that are being lost to modernisation and westernisation.”
“I decided to work with the Wayúu first because they make one of the most recognised pieces of indigenous art around the world, but also one of the most copied and the one that has lost the most of its heritage”, says Elena Fadul. Indeed, the Wayúu are the largest indigenous group in South America and the only ones that resisted the Spanish Conquista. A matriarchal society, weaving is reserved to the women, and young girls receive all the cultural knowledge and symbolism of the craft when they get their first period, through a ritual called Sutapaulu or “the confinement”. Wayúu bags are known as susú and they are the most important accessory for a Wayúu woman. Aluna introduced a collection of exquisitely crafted susú bags, each representing an ancestral drawing. Each bag is made using the one thread technique and takes approximately 70 to 150 hours to be produced by one single woman.
“Wayúu bags are seen worldwide as trendy and cool summer accessories, however what people don’t know is that Wayúu weaving and normative systems are listed as UNESCO intangible cultural heritage and must be preserved as such and protected”, explains Fadul. Aluna has therefore made a particular effort to match each bag with its maker and to present bags that represent only the ancestral symbology. The company does not design the patterns but only works on the colour palette, in order to create products suitable for the Nordic consumer.
Additionally, the company introduced a costume jewellery collection, entirely hand-woven by the Emberá-Chamí tribe, located in central, Colombia. The Emberá-Chamí are literally “the people from the mountain” and have traditionally lived alongside the San Juan river banks, therefore, often represented on their pieces, are the mountains and the rivers as well as the local flora.
The pieces are created using Miyuki or Czech glass beads and sterling silver clasps. Each necklace is charged with ancestral symbology, often representing and paying tribute to the unity of indigenous peoples and important cultural symbols such as the Jaibaná (Shaman), ancestral musical instruments and medicinal plants.
“We made a conscious effort to partner directly with the communities, not only make sure that each piece is an authentic and genuine work of indigenous art, but also to be able to capture and understand the cultural aspects represented by each piece.”
The collection consists of bracelets, earrings and necklaces, each unique and entirely hand-woven by one artist. The collection includes as well, exceptional pieces or Okama, the traditional large necklace worn exclusively by the Emberá-Chamí women. Okama faithfully capture the most important aspects of Emberá-Chamí culture. On display at the showroom was Dkhí Drúa, a piece representing the ancestral dwelling on the Andes and the Andes themselves; corn, the traditional source of food, rivers, rain and medicinal and sacred plants.
All in all, Aluna partners with three associations located in Colombia, founded and directly managed by indigenous communities, and gathering around 100 artists. “We made a conscious effort to partner directly with the communities, not only make sure that each piece is an authentic and genuine work of indigenous art, but also to be able to capture and understand the cultural aspects represented by each piece”, says Fadul. Aluna has made it its core value to never bargain, or to bulk buy from the communities, but instead pay fair prices and most importantly, bring the artists to the forefront. “We want our clients to be proud of the product and be reassured that they are contributing to keeping ancestral art from disappearing”, pinpoints Fadul.
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