Thursday, 27 October 2011


Since we last posted our blog we have spent a week in Chazuta, a nearby town, where we have taken part in workshops in ceramics and natural paper making, collected stones from the river to make natural pigments and spent time with the women at Mishki Cacao (a local organic chocolate makers).

This has been an invaluable experience and given us insight into traditional crafts, heritage and customs from the San Martin region. Spending time with the local women has given us a huge amount of inspiration for creating our own work and allowed us to gain in depth knowledge of the history and skills involved in each craft as well as the cultural intangible heritage attached to each one (such as dances and songs relating to the processes etc). These groups are not yet on the tourism map, although with their passion and drive it may not be long before they begin exporting their goods. It was interesting to observe how these businesses with very little money located in a very remote area, on the fringe of the Amazon rainforest can operate as they deal with sporadic water and electricity supply and main transport route still under construction.  Our workshops were organised by Sachaqa Arts Centre who are our main partners within the Transporter project so it is good to see these types of links being made across the region of San Martin as a benefit to both the arts centre and the local craft groups/businesses.

We discussed a great deal about developing businesses and how to be sustainable (both economically and environmentally) whilst keeping true to roots. We all learnt a great deal, but in different ways. We were able to offer advice on marketing, networking and sharing resources whilst their processes highlighted how much waste there is in the West; they are very creative with the resources they have, every bit of a cacao bean can be used for something as can the banana tree. Even shop displays, signage and decoration are handmade so there is a real sense of individuality to buildings and property- something Britain has unfortunately lost on mass.  We saw a big difference between Chazuta and San Roque de Cumbaza (where our residency is based) and felt this experience has been essential to understanding two very different communities. Chazuta felt more like a working town with a harbour, people making fishing nets and spinning cotton on the streets.

We have uploaded a range of images and videos from our time in Chazuta which gives a guide to the processes for each craft as well as photos from other things we have seen –

Ceramics – Chazuta is famous for its ceramics and the women who taught us over the week, many of whom are in their 80s, have been creating ceramics since childhood. The craft is extremely important to them as a way of life, as it was borne out of necessity to make pots to hold food and drink and now it is also a way to make money to provide for their families. They are currently building a ceramics museum next to the studio, to show both ancestral and contemporary ceramics and to display ceramic burial tombs from an archaeological dig. The difference between ceramics from Chazuta and Lamas areas was discussed; Lamas who create less decorative, more practical pottery whilst the Chazuta ceramicists are experimenting with techniques and developing new styles and iconography for their creations. This posed interesting questions surrounding when pottery for practical purposes becomes art? Something we are going to explore further with our own art work.

Paper making – This group of 6 people, 1 man and 5 women make paper from natural materials such as banana plants, coconut shells and leaves, sugar cane and various other trees. They were taught the process by someone from America who visited them 10yrs ago. Since then they have built their own studio and have orders from Lima and Tarapoto. It is a very labour intensive process and no machinery is used. They have a garden where they grow banana trees to replace the ones they cut down. They take about a year grow again to bear fruit and use for the paper making process.

Mishki Cacao – formed in 2009 and became officially a company in 2011. Mishki means ‘sweet’ in Quechua (an indigenous language of Peru which is still spoken by many in Chazuta). This was a strong family connected business where the husbands organically farmed the cocao bean and 13 women naturally processed it into the most beautiful chocolate we’ve ever tasted! The women even had songs they sang about empowerment and their passion for their craft was inspiring.

Before coming to Peru we made contact with Allpa, an organisation that distributes Peruvian handmade crafts to buyers across the world with a focus on environmentally friendly and fair-trade products, and so we are due to meet them on our return to Lima at the end of our trip. This will provide us with a chance to promote the work of the crafts groups in Chazuta and see how links develop there. We also hope to meet with Lima University and the Museum of Art Lima (MALI) to make links with the next stage of the Transporter project and extend rednile’s international links.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Day 7

Cant quite believe its been 7 days since we left England, it feels like no time at all yet we have experienced so much already!

Today we went to meet Tomas (arts coordinator) in Lamas to visit and discuss possible sites for a FactoryNights event. Two main sites were proposed – a new castle that was built nearby the local indigenous population and the main plaza which on weekends is home to various cultural activities.

The new castle is being built by a business man from Italy who currently lives in Tarapoto – he sees the castle as a gift to Lamas as he loves the place so much but from the conversations we have had with Tomas and Daniel it seems the locals do not appreciate the building as it towers over where they live. The castle is more of a tourist attraction and there is a charge to enter (another reason the locals do not appreciate the building) therefore after further discussion we decided on the main plaza as the site for the Factory Night event. The main plaza was seen as a place that more locals from Lamas and Tarapoto would come rather than the castle and we do not want to create any bad feeling and jeopardise what Factory Nights could be.

We discussed how to promote the event and decided on a two day event, over 5th /6th Nov which will incorporate a Factory Night and will be a celebration of local talents, highlight the rich history of the area and be a way of everyone coming together to be creative – something which does not happen often. We hope to attract writers, musicians, painters, sculptors, photographers etc and for these artists to attend and gain inspiration from local artisans who will be demonstrating their craft such as ceramics, making chumbes (colourful belts) and cotton spinning/weaving for which Lamas is famous.

Lamas is also known for its local produce of pineapples and making of traditional musical instruments such as pipes and drums so we hope to incorporate this into the event too.

During our day in Lamas we were also able to visit the local indigenous population and watched demonstrations of their pottery technique and weaving of chumbes which they sell to tourists and locals. As we understood it, there used to be more artisan makers but now more people sell tourist items such as keyrings and bags. This area of Lamas is where they still speak the quecheua language rather than Spanish – something which we hope to understand more of during our stay.

Lamas felt like a cultural place as soon as we arrived and had a good vibe to the town and people – it seems to be a creative community and is extremely colourful with wall paintings on most streets and beautifully colourful buildings- check out our photos at

We are also beginning to experiment with our own art ideas such as installation works and stencils using natural materials and doing things by the river as water is such as important part of life here. See some of our experiments below and go to our flickr page for more...

Monday, 10 October 2011

Day 4

Day 4

After two days of travelling and overnights stops in Lima and Tarapoto we are now in San Roque de Cumbaza where we will stay for the next 5 weeks and is home to Sachaqa Arts Centre.

Attached images are of the community we are staying in  - further pictures can be seen at our flickr account ...

Today we met Tomas ( who organises events and arts project in Lamas (a near by town). Thomas is really interested in the Transporter project and the work of rednile and our individual artwork and has agreed to help organise a Factory Night (FN) event. Many communities/towns were discussed but it was felt that Lamas was the most suitable place due to its already burgeoning cultural offer and a place that would attract more local people to this sort of event. Lamas is also famous for its folklore and preservation of Amazonian traditional culture. The concept of Factory nights is a new way of working for artists in Peru so we had to choose an area that would attract the most interest. We discussed many ideas in our pigeon Spanish, and with the help of many translators have narrowed down a variety of ways that FN may work –

·         an event where each person can create artwork as part of a large scale temporary installation or each person creates something new as an individual,

·         FN at a modern day stone castle built by a local businessman,

·         hand out disposable cameras to participants where they capture what makes their environment special – discussions lead from this,

·         day or night event where a variety of artists are invited to Sachaqa Arts Centre who have not been before to give artists talk about their work – introduces new artists to SAC and the eco village and creates networking opportunities. 

We are really aware of the slower pace of life here and realise that we also have to slow down and understand that there may be limitations to what we can achieve while we are here. (Its as far from Newcastle as you can get!!) Internet for example, is accessed through a dongle and is shared with other families and often do not work due to the torrential rain!! so if we don’t post for a while this will be why!

The people have all been so friendly so far and many are very creative, we met a sculptor the other day who was in the middle of making a didgeridoo and a local woman has offered to show us how to make the ceramic pots she was trying to sell us. We are due to visit Lamas on Wednesday to ascertain the right site and environment for Factory Nights so will look to update our blog again after that. Tomas has also asked us to be part of a local project in Lamas where they are trying to get 200 different wall designs painted by different artists so we are working on ideas for this.!!

Hasta luego!!

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