Every culture and community in the world has a unique way of expressing their culture through art. Along two of the world’s greatest waterways — the Amazon in South America and the Mekong in South East Asia, exquisite crafts are made that reflect the communities from which they come. For our celebration of women and mothers during the month of May, Aqua Expeditions salutes the women behind these local craft communities. Aqua Expeditions supports environmental conservation, community development and the responsible use of natural resources where we travel and excursions from our cruiseships visit the artist communities and support the markets.
“Capital of Crafts” in the Peruvian Amazon
Madre de Dios is a region in Peru that has evolved from being known as the country’s “Capital of Biodiversity” to the “Capital of Crafts.” The Artisan Women’s Association of Palma Real, a project that is a part of the Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon (ICAA), produces work as intricate and beautiful as the Amazonian ecosystems around them.
The Artisan Women Association of Palma Real, a team of 156 female artisans, plans to use a local “crafts house” to tie together the local crafts community. The art center intends to create an artisanal awakening, increase crafts production, improve quality and market these unique Peruvian products.
“We need help to strengthen our mothers’ group and to conserve our forest,” says Elvira Shaocua, President of the Artisan Women Association of Palma Real.
Palma Real crafts are created from sustainable products, such as plants, roots, seeds, fibers and the ingredients for natural dyes. “Nature means everything in our lives,” says Elvira Saavedra Viaeja, one of Palma Real’s artisans. “It provides the animals that feed us, the medicinal plants that cure us, and the natural materials to build crafts and homes.”
Establishing a central location enables artisans to learn from one another, sell their products, and share their passion for art. Crafts range from handmade baskets, clothes, and jewelry. To learn more about supporting this local craft community, you can visit:
Pottery Builds Community Along the Mekong River
The village of Kampong Chhnang (“port of pottery) is home to the pottery craft of Andong Russei which is nearby to a thriving sugar palm farm. On our Mekong River cruise in Cambodia, we visit the craftwomen of Andong Russei, famous for their terracotta (or “earthenware”) pottery. Archaeological research here dates this community as far back as the Dvaravati Kingdom, in the 6th through 11th centuries when Kampong Chhnang was an important coastal stop on the trade route linking China and India.