Around the World in Santa Fe

I tiptoe around the mountain of DHL boxes and perch on the bed amongst piles of woven bracelets. Reinel is returning to his Zenu family in northern Colombia, repacking handwoven hats and jewelry that didn't sell.  The Folk Art Market is over - we have both survived three days in a warren of tented stalls under the hot, beautiful skies of Santa Fe.  Almost 200 artisans from all over the world have come to offer their hand-crafted genius.  I have come with open eyes and heart to look for what is alive and fresh and deserving, to bring new skills to ibu, to bring new work to women.

The day after the market, my work is just beginning. I must grab every possible moment with these artisans before they disappear back into their distant homes.  Starting with Reinel, now, in this cramped hotel room, and the director of his cooperative and translator, Magno.

Magno Caterino Mahecha Lopez reaches over the boxes and bracelets to show me images on his computer - the Zenu women wrapping Cana Flecha palm, the homes which they have built from their earnings, the plants which burst open with dyes, bright and colorful.  We are concocting a new thing for ibu, something exciting I dare not talk about yet, but before we even begin, he wants me to understand the people behind the product. He wants me to know that the symbols on the cuffs are not decoration but identity - marks of a people and their pride, totemic signs full of memory.   He is not just selling me a cuff.  He is offering me a bridge to another world.

While you are reading news of a Bangladesh terrorist attack,  I am sitting in another hotel room with Mishael, who is telling me other news of his home in Bangladesh - news of Sona and other landless women, once the poorest of the poor, who are now cultivating acres of indigo, learning the mysteries of dyeing, cleaning up their water and sanitation, starting schools, stopping their abusive husbands in their tracts, with money in their hands.  He leans in, with urgency in his voice, and pride, as he delivers news of this year.

While you hear of hundreds of South Sudanese killed in Juba over the weekend,  I am talking with Anyieth D'Awol, who started a center there where women from 19 tribes come to bead jewelry of their own native designs - together - even as the men in their families continue to fight one another.

While Oaxaca mourns 8 killed in hostile clashes, I am meeting with Moises, who cultivates silk in the higlands of Oaxaca, showing me colors so deep and vibrant I could weep for them - silk taking the palette of plants and leaves -  natural and pure and undefiled.  

From the cloud forests of Guatemala,  the streets of Istanbul, the embroidery capital of India, the needleworkers of Nigeria, the felters of Kyrgyzstan, - from all over this small planet, artisans bring another story altogether to our visits, just as significant, just as real as the violence burning up the news.  They are stories not of terror, but of courage, of strength, of fearlessness and beauty.  They are stories that make me small, but happy.  They are why I come, these stories.  These inspiring women and men who quietly share them.  And their faces, like Reinel packing boxes in the morning light, undetetered. 

All the best,
Susan Hull Walker