THE POISON ARROW FROG CONTEST, THE FERIA AND FAREWELLS
November 24, 2022
by Campbell Plowden
October 15, 2022
One skill we want Artisan Facilitators to develop is making a prototype of a new craft just based on a photo of an animal. While many artisans were used to making different birds, I gave them a bigger challenge on the final afternoon of our Artisan Facilitator workshop. Three small groups each got a photo of a black and yellow poison arrow frog as a reference to make a chambira ornament. The total length of the body with folded legs should be 3.5 inches. Teams could choose any process they wanted to make them.
An hour into the process, some people were seriously pondering the task while others were going through the motions. They knew it was unlikely they would make a model worthy of sale to us on their first try. People perked up a bit when I offered a prize of 100 soles to the group who produced the best frogs.
While the groups worked on their frogs, I reviewed other crafts with Yully and Marianela that the artisans had displayed on tables for sale in another structure. It was honestly disappointing to see the poor quality of most of these crafts in the open feria, but it was good to know the same artisans working 30 feet away could make crafts that were ten times better. I selected some to bring back to the US while Yully selected others to sell in our store in Iquitos.
The frog contest ended at 4:30 pm. In two groups, one frog was quite good while the others were just getting started. Wenceslao’s group won the prize because they had worked together to produce a full set of good first attempts. I accepted that one reason a few groups had struggled to complete the challenge was the limited supply of black chambira fiber needed to make this frog. We encouraged everyone to produce better second round models.
Each artisan filled out an evaluation and each group got orders to make 10 to 20 of each craft they made in the workshop. We closed with a full collection of songs and cake for two artisans and Yully whose birthdays were that day and the next. I bid farewell to many artisans I hope to see next year.
"While concepts like punctuality, mutual respect, no put downs of self or others, and listening when someone else is speaking may seem like obvious guidelines to form a positive community, a commitment to actually practice and hold each other accountable to observe these agreements is profound in a culture where showing up late, malicious gossip, and interrupting a speaker are painfully common."
"Artisan facilitators should of course share what they know, but beginning and experienced artisans all benefit by remaining humble, enthusiastic about learning, and committed to encourage and affirm their fellow artisans. So many artisans said that the thing they most wanted to bring back to their communities was this spirit of working in a mutually supportive environment."
"Both men and women wore garb made with bleached llanchama tree bark painted with graphic figures from Bora clans. Several wore headdresses made with the feathers from macaws and parrots. They discussed the importance of nature and craft-making in their culture and then launched into a lively dance where the men chanted and pounded sticks into the ground to the rhythm of moving around in a circle. Visitors joined the undulating lines to share the vibrant energy."