Much of the beaded jewelry we see and purchase has been a product of hours of work by artisans belonging to indigenous groups throughout Latin American. In Colombia there are 86 tribes of the Embera indigenous people. They have a rich culture and history which have sadly been affected by years of guerilla violence, resulting in widespread displacement of the tribes. These tribes still struggle with day-to-day living.
The Embera utilize their talents in handcrafted jewelry to support their families; these techniques have been used for generations and are taught to the children from a young age. It is mainly the women that craft these pieces, which can take 10-15 days to complete. They stay at home to weave, care for the family, educate the children and help in the community. Once a month a family member takes the trip to Bogotá to purchase the materials for the jewelry. The women have an integral part in the making of the embellishments and thus their economic empowerment. This is true feminism!
The colors and shapes of the jewelry speak of the Embera perception of the world. For example, white means clouds and peace; red symbolizes blood, race, soul and flowers; blue represents the sea, river, cycle and space; green means nature, leaves and mountains; yellow is gold, sun, happiness; orange and purple represent flowers; brown symbolizes earth; and black, the night.
Shapes also have a meaning. The diamond represents the four seasons; a circle, community and unity; a spiral represents walking.
The Embera prefer to use bright colors in geometric patterns. Prior to the colonization by the Spanish they utilized gold and after colonization the glass bead was introduced.
Our Embera jewelry is crafted using ancient techniques together with contemporary design by the jewelers from Yumajai. This fashion house also contribute to their community at their reservation in Cali, Colombia, by providing training, employment and fair pay.
Here is some of our Embery jewelry and the symbolism behind it:
For the Kamsa Putumayo tribe, the parrot symbolized the couple, love and joy.
The candonga, or hoop earring, is the main jewel worn by them. It symbolizes social position and is still an essential part of their wardrobe.
The beetle represents nature, flowers and clouds and is revered for its contribution to the ecosystem. They are worn to give strength and promote health.
The puma is an amulet for strength, leadership and balance between gentleness and power. The gold also aids in giving power to the spirit.
The leaf and flower honors the sacred jungle, their home. Wearing them gives the gift of abundance. The flower represents femininity, fertility and beauty.
The hummingbird is an amulet for health, skill, perseverance, beauty, and happiness.
Click here to buy these beautiful pieces of jewelry created by the Embera in Cali, Colombia