artSimiatug Llakta

Simiatug, pronounced shimi-AH-took and equivalent to “Mouth of the Wolf” in Kichwa, is a remote village tucked away in a valley in between the Andes (inside the Chimborazo Wildlife Reserve).

It covers around 91km2 of land, at altitudes that vary from 1,800 to 4,300 meters above the sea level.

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The town is geographically located above the forest line and heavily isolated from big cities, which makes it accessible only by an arduous, hours-long drive on rutted dirt roads.

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About 70% of Indigenous women in this area (~4,200) are semi-literate artisans. While they farm their land and raise cattle, sheep, and llamas, they also harvest, dry, and knit paramo and cabuya straw to transform it into a wide variety of useful and naturally decorative goods.

Once a week, women from neighboring towns travel to Simiatug and deliver their products to Grupo artSimiatug Llakta, a social co-op led by Cornelia Kammermann.

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Cornelia left her natal Switzerland -in 1980- to master her studies in Middle Ages art in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador. Cuenca is a city that could be easily mistaken by Florence for its exquisite architecture that dates back to the late 1600s.

It wasn't only the narrow cobblestone streets and plazas what captivated her but the perfect blend of European and pre-Columbian art. Through art, Cornelia learned about cosmology, the world views and socio-economic structures of the indigenous population of the Andes.

Alongside a catholic mission, Cornelia ended up visiting the ‘Mouth of the Wolf’ and she got immersed into the reality of Simiatug. With great horror she remembers that child and forced marriage was a norm, driven by gender inequality and the assumption that women and girls were inferior to men.

Through small talks, Cornelia realized that women were not being heard and not even given the opportunity to participate in decision-making or community planning. Cornelia felt urged to contribute to women’s development in this village, and has been doing so for the last 30 years.

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“Which color do you like the most?” she used to ask women while holding a few yarns on her hands. She continued to get the same answer: “I don’t know”. Cornelia realized that women were afraid of exercising decision-making, confirming her that she was in the right place.

She sponsored the formation of a co-op led by women and created the first-ever handcraft store and collection center in the area, artSimiatug Llakta.

Cornelia invited women from the village to join her initiative and together they have created a safe space that offers training and workshops to indigenous women looking to technify their craftsmanship.

Through Cornelia’s lead, women in Simiatug have demonstrated that they are fundamental to the community’s growth and development if they are given the opportunity to rise. artSimiatug Llakta is currently a supportive framework for thousands of artisans that are the backbone of rural economy.

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Today, artSimiatug offers a variety of hand woven products made of local grasses from the paramo, including bread baskets, place mats, laundry hampers, serving trays and much more.

We are proud to partner with this amazing group of women that tirelessly work their hands to bring hope and prosperity to the new generations of Simiatug and neighboring towns.

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