I am Maria, an indigenous Panamanian woman who has a strong desire and personal interest in working with the traditional artisanry of my indigenous group. We are called the Ngobe, and we are one of nine groups of indigenous people living in our traditional lands of Panama.
When I was a young girl, I learned to weave the traditional Chacaras (Ngobe bags) in our village, like all the other little girls. I liked doing this a lot, and I wanted to learn much more but I didn’t have the opportunity. When I was about 30 years old, I began to learn how to sew the Naguas (traditional Ngobe dresses). They are beautiful, they use a lot of different colored fabric, and they have many designs that come from our culture and the nature that we see all around us.
Since that time, (for the last 15 years) I have continued to sew alone in my house, and my abilities have improved in different aspects. I really love to sew and create new designs and styles! I have learned to make different types of products, and I now know how to sew a variety of non traditional items like skirts, blouses, hand-bags, pillow cases, table cloths, modern dresses, and others. All of this I have done by myself with the little financial resources I have.
My personal goal is to eventually be able to make a living from my artisanry and to invite other women who are also serious about the traditional artisanry to participate in a small business with me so they too can earn a living. In our culture, the success of a family and the health of the children depend on the women.
My vision for the immediate future is to be able to invite 2 other woman artisans to work with me in my home to help me fulfill the orders that I already have. For this to become a reality I would need an additional sewing machine and other materials and supplies. Once I have successfully employed two additional artisans in my business, then I would like to continue to invite other artisans to come to work for me, and eventually construct a work studio/sales shop in order to store our materials and products. But that’s in the future!