ARTISANS OF LIGHT
EMBERA CHAMI OF COLOMBIA
"This is a culture, it is indigenous art that my grandmothers taught me and they sent me to do it; I do it with the respect of being in front of an inheritance."
The Embera Chami are one of the 90 Indigenous tribes that have resisted European colonization since the 16th century in Colombia. As warriors and protectors of their traditional cultures they have preserved their language, oral tradition, cosmovisions and social and political organisations.
The Embera are fundamentally connected to their natural environment. They see water, rivers and mountains as channels of communications with the spiritual worlds. As defenders of their lands and territories, they hold valuable knowledge and techniques to preserve the environment and traditional knowledge.
Today the Embera Chami live amidst a humanitarian crisis; in fact the tribe was declared in danger of physical and cultural extinction in 2009 by the Constitutional Court of Colombia. The Embera have been detrimentally affected by the armed conflict, mining projects and extractive policies, violence and forced removal of their lands. Violent armed groups have targeted community leaders, leaving their people in a highly fragile state.
Embera Chami communities extend across the North West of the country, in the Departments of Antioquia, Caldas, Chocó, Risaralda, and Valle del Cauca. Large numbers have moved to capital cities who depend on the income from their handcrafts, including beaded jewelry.
Embera women are the leading artisans, responsible for passing on this traditional beading knowledge to the future generations. All the pieces are needle-woven and hand-treaded; a wood loom is used for the special large pieces.
We invite you to watch this video to learn more about this ancestral technique.