My name is Rosa Canelos, and it is my honor to present the ceramic art of my people, the Kichwa, at the 16th Annual International Folk Art Market (IFAM) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 12-14, 2019. I am seeking to raise $2,750 to cover the costs involved in introducing Kichwa pottery to the U.S. Our presence at IFAM is the first step in a project called Mujeres Ceramistas del Territorio Kawsak Sacha de PAKKIRU, or Women Ceramicists of the Living Forest of PAKKIRU. The goal of the project is to promote the indigenous art of the region, particularly the ceramics of our traditional women artists.
The proceeds from sales of traditional pottery at IFAM will not only help improve life conditions in our communities, but also help to empower us as Indigenous women. A successful market experience will demonstrate that our art and culture has value, which will raise self-esteem and encourage us to continue to practice and transmit this invaluable tradition.
Our 160 Kichwa communities, consisting of 20,000 people, live at the edge of the Amazonian jungle of Ecuador, on the banks of the Bobonaza and Curaray Rivers. This territory is home to an active ceramic art community with ancient roots, for we have transmitted this traditional art of pottery making from generation to generation over hundreds of years.
Traditional ceramics play a key role in maintaining our culture. Each day, horns are blown to call the people to join together. Then, the traditional drink, chicha, is passed around in a handmade bowl called a mokawa, and hot food is served in a kallana. These traditional practices help knit our families and communities together.
To create the ceramics, we work with clay in the same way our ancestors have for centuries. We then decorate each bowl by hand, using mineral dyes and brushes made with locks of our hair as bristles. Our designs speak a “forgotten language”- ancient symbols representing sacred animals, plants and spirits-to express the deep connection our culture has with Nature. This is our way of continuously renewing that relationship.
The “Women Ceramicists of the Living Forest of PAKKIRU” project is part of a much more comprehensive vision, known as the Life Plan for the Kichwa People of Pastaza. In brief, the Life Plan calls for the renewal of our culture, particularly the restoration of our traditional cultural-spiritual values, so that we can fulfill our role as guardians of the Living Forest.
Today, with the constant exploitation and destruction of the Amazon, vulnerable ancient cultures like ours are under constant threat. The cycle is by now so familiar: economic pressures mount, the younger generation leaves in search of jobs, traditions die, social dysfunction arises, health deteriorates and the culture begins to wither from within.
Yet, wherever there is life, there is also hope. For the Kichwa people of Pastaza, hope lives in and through this ancient art. It lives in the powerful symbols and cultural stories painted with such reverence and care on those delicate bowls, and it lives in through the traditional knowledge handed down from mother to daughter over the ages.
As a member of the Governing Council of the Kichwa organization of Pastaza (known as PAKKIRU), I am a leader in charge of the Women and Health Department. One of my goals is to help women improve their lives and those of their families and communities by promoting the marketing and sales of Kichwa pottery. In this capacity, I travel throughout the territory developing relationships with women potters and other artisans. Now, I am also reaching out globally to those who share our vision and can help support for our enterprise.
Our vision is both practical and aspirational. For example, we are promoting the use of traditional ceramics amongst our people as an alternative to plastic, aluminum and other toxic materials. We also aspire to create a center in the city of Puyo, the capital of the province, where the artisanal and natural products of the indigenous communities of Pastaza can be featured and offered for sale.
We are grateful for any contribution you can make to this effort. Thank you for your kind consideration…
You can also make a donation to our sister organization in San Francisco:
FRIENDS OF SACHA WARMI – Amalgated Bank – Account number: 2021921