Working with Cane Fibre in Cordoba, Colombia – 2003-2004

Innovarte is a consultancy specialising in Design and Marketing of handicrafts. By collaborating with NGOs, small handicraft companies and associations, it provides artisans with technical assistance and training alongwith finding them viable markets within which to sell their art. Based in Madrid, Spain, Innovarte undertakes projects in South and Central America, the Caribbean, North of Africa and, now, it is beginning in India.

INNOVARTE Project: Strengthening of the handicraft sector working the cane fibre in the region of Cordoba, Colombia 2003 - 2004

The Zenu people
With little growing land, inexistent industry, frequent tropical cyclones, a high level of illiteracy and the extortion of paramilitary groups, the Zenu people, living in poverty today, were in the Precolombian times one of the most educated prosperous cultures.

Excellent handicraft workers on gold and ceramics in the tenth century, nowadays they only work the cane fibre and are the creators of the Vueltiao hat, one of the national symbols. Made in a type of native cane, it uses mainly two colours, brown and white. The drawings they use, of great semiotic importance, are different according to the families and communities.

The areas where INNOVRATE carried out the project are where most skillful cane fibre working handicraft people live, being this their only working activitity.

The "Vueltiao" hat is the basic product and the origin of all the production in cane fibre in the Zenu indigenous community.

About 22 years ago, products such as bags, wallets and wristlets were introduced and they were the present offer at the time when we travelled there. Little had been added up to them and they suffered a stagnation in the creation of new products.

The Design team from INNOVARTE visited the region of Cordoba and met the Artisans from the Cooperative.

The handicraft people, perfectly organized and very participative, gave different exhibitions of the process of their products elaboration, and prepared a representative exhibition of their products.

A handicraft worker shows the process of the preparation of the cane fibre.

Visits to several artisan homes.
The Design team studied the different steps of the cane fibre work. Many technological problems were detected, such as the slow and tiring processes, as the ironing of the fibre, or the use of very old sewing machines.

New proposals.
A market research had previously been made in Spain on products elaborated with vegetable fibre. The new proposals were shown there.

At work creating prototypes. During the visit, the design team helped the handicraft men and women to elaborate the new products.

Our task consisted on adapting the design and quality of the products elaborated in cane fibre to the North American and European markets, as well as their presentation there. On the slide, some samples designed by INNOVRATE: bracelets, folders and sandals.

The new image was created for the new handicraft cooperative.

Presentation at "Expoartesanias" Fair, Bogota, Colombia

Presenting the Cooperative at the stand of Proexport, the Colombian Government Export Promoter.

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