Village Earth

Self-Determination through Artisan Cooperatives

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The Shipibo-Conibo have one of the most elaborate and intriguing polychrome pottery designs in the world. The geometric designs are called quene, literally “symbols of ethnic identity”. For centuries these geometric designs have been a symbol of Shipibo identity and have differentiated them from other surrounding indigenous groups . The designs are codes for songs and chants that relate to their spirituality and shamanic visions during healing ceremonies. Female shamans “see the songs” and “hear the designs” at the same time in a phenomenon known as synesthesia – the blending of the senses. These melodic designs are then recorded into cloth or on pottery in the form of these geometric designs. Most of the pottery, today, is made for the tourist industry and export markets. However, many community leaders expressed an interest in bringing traditional pottery back into everyday use instead of buying mass produced cheap plastic goods in Pucallpa. The Shipibo-Conibo have been organizing themselves into artisan cooperatives for the sake of cultural and economic self-determination. Not only do the self-motivated craft co-ops help the Shipibo to retain their cultural identity, but they are also economically empowering because of the high export value of well-made Shipibo crafts. “The Shipibo artisans are an example of how we can combine the skills of our ancestors and the customs of everyday life,” says Chanan Meni of Dinamarca. “This project reaffirms our cultural identity in its different aspects: elaboration of our art, designs, and songs by facilitating the infrastructure and adequate spaces for the artisans’ activities.” “What the west has to offer is good, but we want something different, because we are different” says Chanan Meni when talking about reviving traditional Shipibo artwork.

Upcoming Courses in the Village Earth/CSU Online Certificate Program in Community-Based Development

Fall I Session

GSLL 1509 – Development and the Politics of Empowerment

Through a careful investigation of the historical applications of development, we will explore the idea that development is an inherently political process and challenge the claim that any development NGO is apolitical. Additionally, we will strive to identify successful methods of community empowerment through political organization.

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Summer II Session

GSLL 1510 – Community-Based Mapping

This course explores theories, ethics, applications, and methods of community-based mapping and its role in participatory learning and action as well as larger processes of integrated community-based development.

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