„Wow, those colours and patterns“ was the first thing that crossed my mind when I discovered Mama Tierra and their bags and accessories at a pop-up market. But unlike many accessories they are far more than just fashionable, so let me tell you about their makers, the Wayuu.
The Wayuu belong to a Carribean ethnic group of 600’000 people who inhabit the northernmost tip of South America. In a no-man’s-land where 80% of the population lives in poverty, problems such as the immense inflation, water shortage and the enviromental pollution caused by multi-national mining companies make them struggle for survival.
The pride of the Wayuu is their craftsmanship: While western culture displays art in museums, they wear it. Wayuu culture demands perfection, and they are among the most skilled weavers on the earth. After a Wayuu girl menstruates for the first time, her tribe starts to instruct her on tasks to reach adulthood. Hard work, perfection, and respect toward others are important values and learning to weave hammocks or bags are paramount to grasp these values in their culture.
Mama Tierra is Spanish and stands for Mother Earth. The goal of the Swiss Non-Profit organization is to support the financial independence of Wayuu women by commercializing ethnic accessories. They are inspired by those women who earn the family’s living, bring up the children, struggle for the preservation of nature and pass on their heritage. I think this is a cause we should all support and the best way to get active is to bring a little piece of colourful Wayuu culture into our everyday life!
The New York Times describes the Wayuu bags as cult objects. Stars like Cara Delavigne, Katy Perry or Uma Thurman have fallen in love with them just as I have. A lot of fashion stores all over the world started to offer them, however there are cheap bags among them. I am glad I found Mama Tierra to prevent me from falling for the low-quality version and own one of their bags as a symbol of my deep respect for the art of the Wayuu.