Tuya's own parents only allowed her to attend to the fourth grade. "A girl child was not counted as a member of the family," she said in her application to the 2014 Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.
Tuya dropped out to be circumcised, a traditional genital cutting that is illegal in
Within a year, Tuya was pregnant, and then her husband died. "I was powerless and hopeless," she said. All of her possessions, including her traditional bridal dress made of ox leather sewn with white beads and small metal discs, were taken from her.
Tuya decided to run back to her father's house, but she was not welcome there. She said her father told her, "I don't want to see you in my home." The next morning, she began a three-day walk through the bush, sleeping at night in the tops of the trees.
Tuya made her way to the
At the village, Tuya returned to school. A medicine woman and other widows have taken care her daughter to allow her time to attend classes and study. She is now in high school and said she is "developing a passion of empowering and developing the community."
Tuya is one of the beaders in the
Historically, more than half of the 700 artists who have participated in the market are women.
The market has always preached -- and there are studies to back it up -- that women are the change makers in their communities. With money in their pockets, they are more likely to not only lift themselves up but also to raise the quality of life for their families and communities.
The stories of market artists often support this.
"Each story shows the way women seized opportunities and turned them into enterprises," said
Due in part to their participation in the
But more are making big differences in their families, the lives of their children and their communities.
Market artists have been able to use sales revenues to send their sisters to school, provide basic water and electricity to their villages, buy mosquito nets for the community or purchase chickens for food during times of drought.
Many of them work together in groups.
Their success "gives women increased self-respect and self-confidence," Littrell added. "They learn to speak up in a group and make decisions at work and at home."
While they are improving the future for their children, the artisans also are teaching them about the past -- cultural traditions such as weaving, basket-making and pottery.
As they bring income to the family and gain self-confidence, sometimes husbands or in-laws find the changes difficult to accept, Littrell said.
"Change does not happen overnight," she said, "but I know of numerous examples where husbands and other household members have gained a new and powerful respect for the women artisans as they see the impact of their work on household income, nutrition and health. There are a number of cases where the men actually begin helping women in their businesses and even pick up some household duties so that the women can complete their artisan work."
In many cases, the women have formed close ties to Folk Art Market organizers and representatives, including Santa Feans, both during the market and during the training that the artists receive prior to the market on pricing their goods and making works for U.S. consumers.
"We know these people. We've visited them in their villages," said Littrell, co-author of Artisans and Fair Trade:
Among the new artists:
Santa Feans Tony Folton and his wife,
The group was accepted, and the market is covering the travel costs for Tuya, a first-time participant, and Salaton, who will serve as her interpreter. Folton and Lyons have helped raise some seed money among their friends for supplies, arranged to pay for some of the work up front and loaned the women the money for the booth fee.
The Kenyan widows typically set the beads in high-contrast patterns meant to reflect the opposites that occur in the natural world, Folton said.
Until now, the women sold their jewelry only to visitors to Salaton's cultural camp. Each woman receives a portion of the sales for what she personally creates, and the rest goes into a pool of funds, which the women collectively decide how to spend. In drought years, the money might go to pay for flour, cereal, sugar and tea. Sometimes the women might decide to pay school fees for the children of families facing hard times.
For the last nine years, Folton and Lyons also have been subsidizing the costs for a Maasai girl to attend school. She's graduating in June, and the couple plan to be there for a party in the girl's village. "We wanted to demonstrate that girls have a right to education, and they can do this," Folton said.
The beads, according to one story, were a gift from the sun. Each bead carries a different name, gender, character and social status. For example, a special bead with yellow and blue lines is the king's bead and can only be worn by the major chief families.
The beads are made by rolling, mixing, cutting and firing a mixture of glass and metal.
Loeks proposed to teach the women
The art form involves layering remnants of old saris and other fabrics and stitching them together. The stitching designs draw upon religious motifs from before and after the Vedic scriptures: the lotus, the tree of life, swirling cosmos, the sun. The women make wall hangings, bags and pillow cases. Kantha are even used to separate rooms, cover dishes of food and hold babies, who often don't wear diapers.
Materials include undyed Indian handwoven Tussur silk and Bengali muslin. The women also make saris, duppattas (shawls), blouses, shirts and children's clothes as well as bedding, table linens and towels.
Today, about 35 members of the collective are doing embroidery, often working in multigenerational groups on individual projects, while others are serving in health education and other jobs for the collective. The collective, Loeks said, is about "changing the lives of women affected by domestic violence."
Each of the women was a victim of domestic abuse. Some were beaten and thrown out of their homes, some cast out by in-laws after the death of their husband.
Kantha is both an essential art form and a "means to an end," Loeks said.
Their success has had an impact, she said. There are fewer divorces in the village, she said, and some are alcohol and drug free. And newly empowered women have confronted their husbands about domestic violence, she said, telling them to "straighten up or we're going to move on."
Yolanda Sebastiana Calgua Morales/Cooperativa de Alfombras de Mujeres Maya en
Over 50 women living in the
Yolanda Calgua lives in an adobe home in small village called Quiejel, an hour's walk from the main road. When potable water reached her village, Calgua was able to buy faucets and pipes for six families to tap into the system as a result of income from the sale of her rugs.
The people there grow vegetables, fruit, corn and beans and raise chickens, turkeys and pigs, which they sell at the village market or in the nearby town of Chichicastenango.
In the co-op's application, Calgua said, "For me it is a privilege to be a rug hooking teacher and bring this opportunity to women in our communities. My hope is that they can make a better life for themselves and their children."
Calgua and her sisters have been weaving as long as they can remember. She learned from her mother and grandmother and has taught her daughter to weave. "It is as much a part of the day's domestic duties as cooking, cleaning and caring for children," she said.
In her group, all the women own at least two looms. In addition to rug hooking, they weave huipils, fajas and cintas. The rugs, she said, are like canvases, "which we fill with colors, symbols, designs that represent our Mayan culture."
The women learned rug hooking from
Littrell began tracking their progress and saw their products were getting better and better. But being accepted into the Folk Art Market was a long shot because rug hooking was not a traditional skill, even though the rugs still had a strong Mayan aesthetic. Both Wise and Littrell helped with the application.
Roy, who learned to quilt from her mother, works with a company called Living Blue, which specializes in Kheta, the name for traditional Bengali hand quilting. She is one of more than 300 rural women who make the quilts for Living Blue, which also provides training to women interested in learning the art form.
The women combine traditional quilting techniques with the organically grown True Bengal Indigo, called indigofera tinctoria, to dye the cloth.
In addition to quilts, the women make indigo-dyed stoles and shawls.
The art form was almost extinct when Living Blue revived it as a way of generating income for rural women.
The adult men in the family are farmers, and the women work as farmers during the harvesting season and as quilters at other times of the year.
According to the application, the Living Blue artisans earn a fair wage and have control over the business and the profits.
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