Monday, July 16, 2007

Santa Fe International Folk Art Market

This weekend (July 14-15) the fourth annual Folk Art Market was held on the grounds of the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. I spent a chunk of the day there on Saturday--under a beautiful blue sky and surrounded by a riot of color, sound, and wonderful food smells! I bought a few Christmas presents (from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Vietnam), an Afghan shawl (which I'm using as a table runner), a Mexican embroidered pillow, and a Haitian steel drum wall hanging. I listened to wonderful Afro-Latin music, ate Frito pie (a local favorite), and took lots of pictures!
This young woman from Afghanistan (holding my new table runner) was representing a group called Afghans for Civil Society, and over 300 women from Kandahar who work in their homes to create this beautiful embroidery. The technique is called khamak, which involves fine, delicate stitching. Young girls in Kandahar learn this technique at an early age, since their future in-laws will judge their suitability as a wife in part on their khamak skills. According to the hangtag, "Many of the participants of this project are widows, most are desperately poor, living in houses made of hardened mud, with no running water or electricity, and too many children for the available quantity of food. For many of the women, this work is their family's only source of income."

The organization was founded by Hamid Karzai's brother, Qayum Karzai, who is a Baltimore restaurateur. I met Qayum's wife, Pat, who volunteers as US coordinator for the organization, at the market, and we talked about the family's restaurant business--which also includes a wonderful restaurant called Helmand which I used to frequent in Cambridge. When I lived there, the Cambridge Helmand was managed by Hamid Karzai's sister; at the time, she was thinking about going back to Afghanistan.
This photo is of Winzor Gouin, who made the metal wall sculpture I purchased. Winzor is from Croix de Bouquet, Haiti, and is one of a number of Haitian artists (usually male) who convert oil drums into art. The artists remove both ends of the oil drum, reserving those pieces for smaller sculptures, and then create 4x6' metal "canvases" for larger pieces from the flattened remainder of the drum. After the oil residue is removed with burning straw, the designs are drawn on with chalk, and then created with a hammer and chisel. My piece, which is round, comes from an end.
Many of the artists are sponsored by non-profit organizations, individuals, and art dealers. In 2006, a UNESCO grant sponsored a two-day workshop prior to the market which helped artists learn to promote their work, build their incomes, and create a community with the other world artists. One of the new twists of this year's market was the incorporation of an internship program to help four cultural entrepreneurs from southern Africa learn how to put on folk art markets in their own countries by 2009. Sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the program will run for three years. Click here to read more about the program as described in the Santa Fe New Mexican, and here to read a summary that appeared in Business Week.

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