Who we are

Photo: Artisan Aia from Coqueiros/Bahia.  Credit: ArteSol

A non-governmental social organization created in 1998 and transformed in a Civil Society Organization of Public Interest (OSCIP) in 2002 with the aim of contributing to the safeguarding and development of traditional craftwork in areas of Brazil with low human development indices. With the support of diverse partners, ArteSol has developed around 100 projects in 17 of the country’s 26 federal states. These projects have benefitted approximately 5,000 artisans and their families: producers of pottery, weavings, lace and embroidery work, wooden and clay sculptures, musical instruments and toys, among other artefacts made primarily by women.

The actions developed by ArteSol set out from the principle that intangible cultural heritage in general, and traditional craftwork in particular, is a resource of special significance in terms of the history, worldviews and ways of life of their practitioners. These resources are potentially available to most, if not all, members of cultural communities, allowing for differences in gender, age and other forms of social differentiation, which organize the practice and transmission of this knowledge. Their holders often use them as an important component of family income. For this reason, its safeguarding and development, when sustainable, can contribute decisively to improving the living conditions of artisans and their families, as well as boosting their self-esteem and promoting access to citizenship rights.

ArteSol began by identifying groups of traditional craft workers living in poverty, understanding that this activity formed an integral part of family life in such communities. Being aware of the social peculiarities of each community, the diversity of tastes and techniques, our goals were to contribute to the formation of associations, to the understanding of consumer needs and preferences, to redesign products when necessary, to help in price formation and in the establishment of as direct as possible relations with the market. Our priority has always been to mediate the traditional crafts producers’ relationships with the market and the formation of strategic partnerships, aiming to safeguard the local cultural heritage as well as the autonomy of the artisans as producers and as citizens.

The social technology developed by ArteSol contributed effectively to safeguarding expressions of intangible cultural heritage at risk in Brazil, such as lace making techniques in Divina Pastora (Sergipe state), viola de cocho instruments in Corumbá and Ladário (Mato Grosso do Sul state) and earthenware cooking dishes in Goiabeiras (Espirito Santo state). These three cultural elements today form an official part of Brazil’s Cultural Heritage, protected by the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN). In addition, this approach contributes significantly to regional sustainable development projects like, for example, those taking place in Polo Veredas (Minas Gerais state).

By Antonio A. Arantes | Member of the Board of Directors of ArteSol – Artesanato Solidário, Brazil
Translation by David Rodgers

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