Sharing Indigenous crafting knowledge and skills

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Throughout Guyana, Indigenous craft practices are on the decline. Research with Indigenous communities in Guyana has shown that following language, craft making has been identified by Indigenous communities as one of the most important indicators of Indigenous knowledge and heritage. As part of our National Geographic Society project on conserving nature and culture through Indigenous crafting in Guyana, we have been running week-long crafting workshops, bringing together Indigenous crafters and youth from across Guyana to share their knowledge, skills and experiences, and importantly, to make connections and links with like-minded people.

Workshop 1 focused on the state of knowledge about crafting in the communities we are working with, especially those producing craft for food processing. This showed that there are fewer, and fewer skilled crafters who can make the essential crafts needed for food processing, with some communities such as in Region 3, having no-one left who knows how to make the craft.

Workshop 2 focused on reviewing information about the different craft items and the resources needed to make those items. This showed that many types of craft items, especially baskets, have already been lost, and the richness of designs is also fading.

Workshop 3 focused on different business models for craft, and how crafters could better cost and market their craft items. It also looked at the guidelines for community craft businesses and craft resource management. This workshop highlighted the lack of business know-how of many crafters and the under valuing, and thus, under-pricing, of their work to both internal and external markets.

Despite the declining nature of Indigenous crafting, discussions and reflections during these workshops highlighted the passion and enthusiasm of crafters, their intimate knowledge of making craft as well as how to find and manage the raw materials, and their willingness to pass on their skills to younger people.

These workshops were an incredibly important space for crafters and young people to exchange information, histories and stories, contributing to not only crafting, but bigger steps towards maintaining and reviving traditional knowledge and culture.