Expoartesanías: The Artisans’ Hour

Every December, in what has become an eagerly anticipated event in the country’s traditions and cultural memory, Corferias hosts Expoartesanías, one of Bogotá’s most successful annual events. Fiber, wood, textiles, decorations, silver, gold, clay, ceramics, and stone are guest stars at this celebration of folk creativity.

Por: Iván Beltrán Castillo
Fotos: Lisa Palomino


They come from all over, like a caravan assembled to amaze, an army of artists skilled in creating everyday wonders. They are artisans, the emissaries of an art that is both humble and as necessary as life itself. They come from the coasts of Colombia, the almost erotic green of Colombia’s Great Plains and Orinoquía region, the Baroque and intriguing vegetation of the Amazon, deep inside the dour Boyacá province —seemingly asleep on a leftover sliver of the Middle Ages— from the lively Santander provinces, and from Cauca, copper-colored like an ancient warrior. They also come from places even further away, where objects, customs, gods, and the years themselves have different names: northern Ecuador; pristine and highly cultured Lima; burnt-yellow Cuba; cosmopolitan Buenos Aires; and magical Brazil. In a festive corollary to the long awaited event, representatives of the marvelous goods handcrafted in China, Japan, traditional Europe, and the always-surprising Africa also arrive.

This is an irresistible, not-to-be-missed event for buyers, enthusiasts, connoisseurs, collectors, admirers, the uninitiated, and the simply curious, who see in these simple accessories, handy items, and pictorial garments worn by the artisans, confirmation of a phrase once spoken by Mexican poet Octavio Paz, who claimed that “handicrafts are worn away by men; they teach men to die and therefore to live.”

Tradition and Novelty

December 6-10, Expoartesanías Colombia will once again provide a bridge across which creators and the business world can communicate. The goal is to integrate these handicrafts into emerging global possibilities and capture new and beckoning markets without depreciating the intrinsic qualities and unique elegance of these goods.

Aida Furmanski, the event’s director, has more than twenty-five years of experience working with artisans from all over Colombia. She says the main task on her agenda for this year’s event is to create new spaces in which to bring producers and global buyers together. To accomplish this, she hopes to increase the number of visitors from 70,000 to 100,000 in 2013 by promoting two-week travel packages and extending invitations to important business executives, including the owners of major chain stores, and groups of experts and specialists in handcrafted goods, as well as a large number of journalists.

“We’ll also host business forums in which our marvelous traditions will be exposed to more ambitious and promising financial strategies than those currently in place. A handcrafted object’s aggregate value is based on the fact that it was made by hand and inspired by non-transferrable inventiveness and imagination; because it is unique, it cannot be repeated or exactly reproduced. International shoppers, quite often tired of mass-produced products and effortless consumerism, find these marvels fascinating,” explains Aida Furmanski. She adds that thanks to these encounters, artisans in Colombia and Latin America have adopted a new rhythm and beat.

And this year’s Expoartesanías has more innovations in store: a colorful culinary display highlighting the gastronomical traditions of Colombia’s different regions and those of other Andean countries; a sampling of contemporary handicrafts; a children’s pavilion, where youngsters can be cared for while their parents visit the show; carts to help shoppers and stimulate sales; and workshops in several pavilions to demonstrate the best ways to display handcrafted objects and achieve, ultimately, the most cinematographic and ambitious presentation of this profoundly human art.