Authentic Arts

Colombiart adapts traditions from dozens of ethnic groups to bring Colombian craft to global markets

What do you get when a lawyer and a stockbroker tire of their careers? In the case of Bogota schoolmates Daniel Morales and Carlos Morales, you get Colombiart, an artisanal collection of home and fashion accessories made across Colombia’s 32 departments and 80 ethnic groups.

“The crafts we focus on are the living proof of our country´s origins, allowing one a glimpse of indigenous groups’ beliefs, and their inherited knowledge of materials and techniques.  These processes involve countless materials obtained from different natural and sometimes manufactured sources, such as natural fibers, acrylic threads, virgin wool threads, clay, and more,” says Colombiart co-founder Carlos Morales. 

One of the most important materials brought to market by Colombiart is Caña flecha palm, a natural fiber woven into exquisite home and fashion accessories by indigenous peoples of the Córdoba and Sucre Departments in Colombia’s Caribbean region.  

Caña flecha grows wild near fresh water swamps, rivers, and streams where it protects against erosion. In order not to deplete these ecosystems, farmers, many of the artisans, sow and harvest their own plants. Only the vein in the center of each leaf is used for crafting, with the other 95% used for animal feed and other purposes. 

Caña flecha is the main moneymaking activity in the towns of at Tuchin and San Andres de Sotavento, where most people are descendants of the indigenous Zenú tribe, whose roots reach as far back as 200BC. The Zenú were badly affected by Spanish Colonization, and their skills as goldsmiths and ceramists died out. But caña flecha basketry survived, and Zenú methods are at the heart of Colombiart’s hats, wallets, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and more.

While caña flecha bracelets normally are best sellers in global export markets, in Colombia, the most popular item is a type of hat called vueltiao. Which was declared by the Colombian Congress in 2004 as a symbol of their nation’s cultural heritage. Among the Zenú, if a woman likes a man, she gives him a vueltiao hat, and if the man likes the woman in return, he wears the hat as a sign of their relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend. The hat is also useful in keeping the sun at bay while working outdoors.

Caña flecha is also known as a fiber which responds beautifully to dyeing, resulting in a range of bright colors as well as black and white, which are the result of boiling and sun drying, and mud dyeing, respectively.

For more information, please visit Colombiart at booth 1068 at Artisan Resource @ NY NOW, February 1 – 4, 2015, or their website http://www.colombiart.co.

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