When you live in a Bolivian community you find places like the ones in the picture, no sign of an Autumn / Winter’s brand season anywhere- or even a shop the way we recognise it. Instead, green and blue dye the hole natural scene and a dense orange colour tints the clothes and skins. That was July 2013, a very hot, humid and rainy period in the Beni region, northern Bolivia, where I was living for a month. Mercedes del Apere has 200 inhabitants, most of them young women, a chapel and a shop. I want to share the experience I had and explain the connection I found between this small village and the big city of Barcelona, but also the contradictions I found in people.
After a week living there I realised my mind and body were truly resting and my eyes weren’t being persuaded in any way. One week back I was struggling with final projects, losing hours of sleep and feeling frustrated because of the amount of work I had. I discovered peace.. I thought to myself. People from Mercedes del Apere did not run or struggle, or felt stressed.. These people were also exempt of the invasive advertisements and cheap commercials that big industries shoot at us all the time.
In Barcelona, where I have been living for the rest of the year, things are very different. There is this overbearing consumer trend which drags us into products, fashion, and things we buy without knowing where they come from. The products from the big fashion firms, which we aren’t able to pay, are everywhere in any form of advertisement. This is how brands make sure our brains are constantly receiving information and to capture our attention is their main goal. The contradiction is that, even if you can pay that product from let’s say Valentino, you aren’t buying uniqueness anymore, the other way round, that purse is mass produced and sold out all over the world in a Valentino shop or an illegal stall. Big brands, mostly fashion and design brands, are so inside our society that it is almost impossible not to talk about them.
A few days ago a friend asked me the following question;
“ ¿haven’t you ever realised we are dressed up in human exploitation?..”
…True… I thought to myself, but, “is there a way to avoid that in the world we live?”
In fact there is, by buying only local products made by local people.
I noticed that citizen’s rejection to big brands has become stronger over the years. People of Barcelona no longer walk down the known Paseo de Gracia street where the big fashion, design and jewelry firms have their shops. This is a contagious phenomenon, and the people of Barcelona are trying hard to preserve their own craftsmanship work, sense of identity and personality. By promoting craftsmanship work, designers, artisans and new artists are emerging and starting to be well-known in the city. Nowadays, the merit of having good taste is to find what everyone desires but can not find, uniqueness and exclusiveness. Now, personality is seen as the mixture of things and the trend is to find unique pieces of art, fashion or furniture, all those accessories which people use to build their own identity.
The artisan’s work is so quiet and fluid. If you have had the opportunity to visit an artisan’s workplace you understand from what you see that it is the most well done work ever made. People in this trade create from the soul, they create unique pieces for themselves or close people, and when you design freely and for yourself you do it in the best way, because it is what you love the most. However, is this true?, can we buy local product without altering our monetary income or habits in life? I invite you to try it at least.
Why don’t we ask ourselves what can we do with our hands, rather than what can we do with money. I truly believe that we can create much more satisfactory emotions with what we do. In Bolivia, many everyday objects are made by the people who use them and therefore, have the suitable features for them. I want to highlight this point in particular because there aren’t that much products made in this way. Citizens from Mercedes del Apere apply elements from the jungle into objects with new functionalities. Seeds are used for dressing up young women in the village, fruits are turned into water containers or furniture and jewelry is made up from animal tooth. Every object has it’s own personality and attributes depending on the use of it. Costumes for festivity days are colourful and flashy.
This is one of my favourite objects, which inspires me in many ways. This necklace was done by the Bolivian women as an object to help primp themselves for a special venue. In Mercedes del Apere it was a tradition to choose the best dancer of the village once a year. This necklace is one piece of the costume girls used when dancing in front of everyone before the final election. Jewelry articles were used by women generation through generation. The dresses they wore were fantastic, crowns, skirts, sandals.. all made up from animal leather and tooth, sea shells and seeds from fruits. Moms and grandmothers were the ones who made them for the young girls, they could spend two months making the whole dress and the work was careful and precise. The result was beautiful and it showed me the glorious satisfaction of the well-done work. This is how a Bolivian community made me love craftsmanship.
Have a look into the world of accessories and value it yourself. Which products are the most special for you? I am not talking about good or bad quality, I am talking about uniqueness, originality and objects that tell stories.