Dear Ibu Allies,
Several years ago, my partner Juan Pablo Gomez Angel and I were helping a client who wanted an artwork that would inspire him—a finishing touch for the space we were remodeling. As the project neared completion, my concern to find this piece was growing—nothing hit the mark. I was sharing my worry with my father, when he suggested, I know an artisan that you’ll love and his creations are true works of art. My face lit up with hope.
We embarked on an adventure to meet Valerio, a leading craftsman from the indigenous community of Achagua in the Colombian plains. He was selling his campechanas—hand-crafted leather hammocks—in a park in the center of Yopal, Casanare. These rustic loungers are used by the plainsmen of Venezuela and Colombia to rest after a long day’s work, and it was exactly the look we needed to complete the job for our client.
This life-changing experience inspired us to travel around the world in search of expert makers: artisans who through their work preserve the past to improve their future. As we connected with different groups, we decided to create El Dorado Art—a space for artists to not only sell their products but also to tell their truth through their craft. Ibu has been an important partner in this effort by helping us to broaden the marketplace even further, working with many of our artisan groups.
In order to develop a product in co-creation with an artisan community, one must first have intimate understanding and trust in each other. Like any healthy relationship, this is achieved through conversation, empathy, and time spent developing a concept that honors their culture and heritage.
One might think that the most challenging aspect of our work is the hustle and bustle of traveling—planes, cars, sometimes canoe, and even by horseback—but instead, it is understanding time. For artisan communities, especially indigenous ones, the concept of time is cyclical, rather than sequential. There is a strong relationship between time, territory, cosmos, and spiritual beings. It's flexible and shifts according to people's needs. They employ the complex patterns of the moon, stars, planets, and sun to record and communicate methods of timekeeping through oral language, paintings, textiles, and ornaments.
Through our partnerships with women’s artisan groups, we have learned that regardless of the place, women are a powerful force, willing and ready to work together and do what needs to be done. It is no coincidence that, according to statistics, 90% of a woman’s income is reinvested in her family and community. Whether Wounaan, Wayuu or Embera tribe women, or traditional artisans working in Nariño, Usiacurí, or Magdalena medio, these women leaders know exactly what they need to improve and grow as a community. And we at El Dorado Art entrust our resources and invest in their efforts.
Celebrating the inauguration of Sain Kai—the Arema Weaving Space and the Primary School, both funded by Ibu Foundation. At center, the El Dorado Art founders, Juan Pablo Gômez and Juan Sebastián Rivera with Ibu Foundation Executive Director Hannah Blatt.
Our goal as connectors is to build bridges so we can create a bond and share knowledge. The opportunity to have representatives like Susan Walker and Foundation Director Hannah Blatt travel to Colombia and witness first hand the work and relationships Ibu has built through El Dorado is very important, especially to the artisan communities. The Ibu Movement values their craftsmanship and tells their stories to an audience they might not reach on their own.
We have no words to thank each and every one of you who have supported and contributed to the Ibu Movement through the marketplace and foundation, impacting communities, and especially women.
Juan Sebastián Rivera Bustos
Co-Founder, El Dorado Art