Learn about the Artisans

Mayan Hands – Guatemala

Each Mayan Hands group has its own story and personality, but there are some things that they all share. They live in rural areas, in adobe houses, have outhouses, running water in the pila (outdoor concrete sink used for everything), and electricity. In many ways that means they are in better shape than the poorest of the poor here. But they are no longer in that category because of their work with Mayan Hands.

The women are young and single, single mothers, women with whole families intact, women whose husbands work far away so are only home occasionally, women whose husbands are drunk and lost to a useful life at best and are abusive at worst, and widows — all of which is to say women in every kind of life situation. Workshops they have been given that include the concept of self-esteem are amazing to them, and the possibility and legality of women’s rights is something they are getting a better handle on all the time.

Most of the women who work with Mayan Hands have had no more than a  education, and many none whatsoever. They tend to be illiterate, and many do not speak Spanish. (We work with women in four language groups: K’iche’, Kaqchikel, Tz’utujil, and Achí.) But one of the most important things that working with Mayan Hands does for them is make it possible for them to send their children to school, including their daughters.

 

Sirigu Women's Organization for Pottery and Art

The Sirigu Women’s Organization for Pottery and Art (SWOPA) in northern Ghana is an NGO that supports local women in creating and marketing traditional art. In this community, whose history is primarily communicated orally, the adobe-like buildings have been painted to tell stories. Sirigu stories are told through the motifs and symbolism of the artwork, whether wall decorations, canvass painting, or calabash decorations. Aside from their beautification purposes, all the motifs represent real events in the community. PAMBE Ghana’s Global Market has an excellent selection of artwork featuring paintings on canvass (strip woven and treated cotton).

 

UPAVIM - GuatemalaUPAVIM - Guatemala

UPAVIM is an acronym for Unidas Para Vivir Mejor, "United For A Better Life." This group of women lives in a squatter community named La Esperanza (“Hope”) on the outskirts of Guatemala City. Before being accepted as a working member of the cooperative, each woman must complete 32 volunteer hours. As a member, she must continue to volunteer two hours per week. For these women artisans, craft work is fit into a daily routine of child care, housework and volunteering in other programs at the UPAVIM community center. In addition to personal income, the artisans use money from the sales of handicrafts to run a Montessori Infant Education Center and Alternative Elementary School.

In 1988, UPAVIM was organized to offer much needed health and educational services within this community, where many families had fled from Guatemala’s civil war and overpopulation in the capital city. Since then, the organization has grown to include income generation programs, including handicraft training and production, a bakery, a soy product production, medical clinic, pharmacy, medical laboratory, growth monitoring program and tutoring program for families with limited choices. 

• This craft program employs 88 women who are working for their basic human rights and dignity.
• Many of the artisans are widows or single mothers; at UPAVIM their children are taken care of in the Children’s Center while the mothers are working
• UPAVIM’s scholarship program supports up to 500 students yearly.
• The UPAVIM clinic represents the only affordable health care in La Esperanza.

 

Rwandan Basket Weavers

Jyambere Mutegarugori means Women in Development in Kinyarwandan, the official language of Rwanda. This group of 93 women is located in the western Rwandan village of Muramba, an area gravely affected by the genocide of 1994. Many of the women involved with Jyambere Mutegarugori are widows, having lost their husbands and other family members during the violence in Rwanda. Most are the sole income earners in their households. Having a place to come together, support each other, and provide for their families has made a valuable impact on their lives.

 

Tonderai Metal Works

At Tonderai Metal Works in Zimbabwe, metal sculptors transform colorful red, yellow, white and blue oil drums into fashionable garden art elephant sculptures. Each sculpture is finished with varnish to protect against the elements.

 

Flip flops from Kenya's beaches

Responding to an influx of washed up flip flops on Kenya's beaches, artisans collect, clean and transform colorful foam footwear into vibrant modern safari art sculptures, like our fun giraffes. This unique art form has a positive impact on both the environment and craftspeople in need of steady income.

 

Bolga Baskets

While beautifully crafted baskets are made throughout Africa, none compare to the quality, craftsmanship, and popularity of the baskets from the village region of Bolgatanga in Northern Ghana. For decades Ghanaian Kinkanhe Straw has been transformed into brilliant works of art by skilled artisans whose intricate weaving techniques have made "Bolga Baskets" a household name. These baskets help the rural people of Northern Ghana earn good incomes. When a woman can create an income, it puts food into the bowl of a child, and is also a means of promoting self-esteem for the women, children, and the entire village.