September is shaping up to be a busy month at the American Indian Community Housing Organization. This past Thursday a trio of indigenous beadwork artists from Saraguro, Ecuador visited. They are members of the cooperative Las Mujeres de Teresa de Calcuta and widely known for their netted necklaces.
Here is a a brief video introducing the larger cooperative, La Mega, that the women are part of.
Thursday’s event was coordinated by myself and David Syring of the University of Minnesota Duluth. At AICHO, we invited a variety of indigenous beadwork artists from our region to meet with the women to share their experience as both artisans and original peoples. The gathering left lasting impressions on all who attended.
The event took the form of an informal gathering that was open to beaders and bead enthusiasts alike; once the women set their work out on the counters, everyone was curious to hear what they had to say. The women had the opportunity to talk to local indigenous artists Leah H Yellowbird, Wendy Savage, Sags Beadwork, Michelle Defoe, and Chenoa Williams, among others, about topics ranging from artistic style to the strength of indigenous women. Several works of art were exchanged at the meeting as the two cultures connected, and, at one point, a poignant dialogue ensued about the collective struggles of indigenous people to protect the land and resources of their nations. Local artists explained the situation that’s currently taking place on the Standing Rock territory in North Dakota, circumstances that are not unfamiliar to the people of Ecuador.
Beadwork enthusiast and local newscaster Michelle Lee stopped in as well to admire the work and purchase a piece, which she wore for the news that same evening.
With any luck, we’d like to bring these ladies back next year! Only three Saraguros were able to visit this time around; travel costs and the proper visa approval stand in the way of getting larger groups of artisans to the States. One thing is certain, though! These women brought a lot of joy and wisdom to Duluth — it won’t be the last time the Anishinaabe and Saraguros cross paths.
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