I remember the first time I met her, standing in a state of quiet grace behind the table of beads I had come to view. She was quite young but had crafted the beaded artistry around her neck, the designs offered at the table, and, I later learned, was knitting together a child in her womb.
In the four years since, I've learned that Angie Tatiana Guatiqui belongs to the Embera Chami community in what is now Colombia, but was always, to her ancestors, simply the hallowed land they stewarded. Colonizing Europeans seized the best of it, forcing the Embera to unfamiliar regions. Now, the Embera Chami, People of the Mountain, make up only 2% of the population of Colombia; their culture and tribe at risk of extinction.
Angie Tatiana Guatiqui and her mother-in-law, Gladys Nacavera, of the Embera Chami community in Colombia.
With her at the table where I first felt this presence of grace, was Angie's mother-in-law, Gladys Nacavera, an Ibu, if you will, who teaches cultural dances and traditions to children of the community, who carries the complicated, sacred stories of women around her neck. That's what the Okama necklace means, the wide collar which they both so strikingly wear; it means the woven path of stories around a woman's neck.
The weaving of beads isn't thought of as an art to the Embera, but more as an ancestral thought. Handed down from mother to daughter for generations on end, the beading is saturated with the stories and symbols of their communal life, and with that comes a kind of talismanic protection—given first to girls as they develop into young women, and growing into more complex designs worn by older women.
Glady's mother, Ubaldina Nacavera, carries stories and the wisdom of her culture in her chants, face writing, and beading. You can listen to her offer her blessing here.
After our first meeting, Angie gave birth to a beautiful daughter, Emily Nepono Tanigama, and has joined the women in her family in becoming a channel for the river of their inheritance, allowing it to pass through her to others in the world. Angie and her community were proud to create the stunning river of beads shown above for our Ten Year celebratory runway, and to offer them to you as well, with their blessing, and the beneficence I first found in their faces years ago.
I am humbled by these four generations of women, drawing from their motherline to feed our broken world with beauty. In their songs, written on their faces—is joy. And through a legacy of brutal oppresion and cruelty, a reverence yet shines. Imagine the strength of the women who came before them. Imagine the heartache that flows around their necks. imagine that much grace and grit and love.
And imagine wearing that benefaction—you—out into our world. Nothing less than a prayer crafted out of darkness, a story which you, too, join; a river of color and light.
All the best,