This month, thousands of artisans from across the country arrive in Bogotá to participate in the largest showing of Colombian arts and crafts.
Expoartesanías opened its doors Friday and will run through the Dec. 17, offering visitors the chance to buy unique crafts, many of which have traveled great distances from the most remote corners of the country.
It’s Colombia’s most comprehensive fair of handmade goods, taking up five pavilions of the Corferias exhibition grounds.
Several international exhibitors have also been invited in case you fancy that silk scarf from India or Turkish hanging lantern. For the first time, Italy and Cuba are represented with jewelry and specialty items.
With this edition, Expoartesanías celebrates 25 years as the yearly window on the country’s arts and crafts via the state’s promotion entity, Artesanías de Colombia. To commemorate a quarter-century, Artesanías de Colombia will hand out Master Teacher medals to those who have shown outstanding commitment to their arts and crafts.
Visitors to the fair can also learn about the Network of Patrimonial Towns program organized by the National Tourism Fund (FONTUR), and the fair will highlight “Design Colombia,” which looks at importance of ancestral crafts.
Local cuisine from the different departments will be served in the main food hall.
As all of Colombia’s 32 departments are represented, you’ll find that Amazonian spear poised next to hand-painted mugs from Carmen de Viboral, Antioquia. Then, every mochila imaginable, from wool ones knitted by the Arhuaco indigenous peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta to those made from cacti by the Kankuamo, near Valledupar.
Jericó, Antioquia, craftsmen will show you their iconic carriel satchels, as well as designer belts and iPhone cases. Cundinamarca and Bogotá are well represented with woven goods, such as the Duitama ruana.
Many of the items on display at Expoartesanías make for practical home accessories, such as a hammock from San Jacinto or linen baskets from Chocó. The Embera peoples, who inhabit the northern region of this department, show their incredible skill at combining color in water-tight flower vases and fruit bowls.
Tolima’s La Chamba offers their emblematic black earthenware, and given the challenge of getting there, Expoartesanías is a great place to put together an entire table set.
Turning raw materials into one-of-a-kind handicrafts often involves the hard work of an entire community, and buying a unique item at Corferias is a chance to give back to a community. As there are no intermediaries at the fair, the price you pay means you are getting what’s fair.
Many of the remote villages represented at Expartesanías must pool together an entire year’s worth of production in order to justify their travel expenses to the capital. Hence, many of the crafts are personalized with the name of person who made it written on its tags.
Colombia’s arts and crafts celebrate the land, the proximity to specific raw materials and skills handed down from generation to generation.
From the tip of Colombia, in hamlets across La Guajira peninsula, the Wayúu decorate their bright mochilas. From Amazonas department come wood carvings and paintings of wild animals on dried tree bark.
The goldsmiths of Mompox will gladly show you how they elaborate their intricate filigree. Then there are the hat makers, from Aguadas, Caldas to Sandoná, Nariño.
Artisans have forged the Colombian identity and take great pride in their work. From designs plain to intricate, this country is a unique destination when it comes to arts and crafts, and Expoartesanías brings them close to home.
Going strong for a half century, this year’s Expo promises to be the pre-Christmas shopping event and a great opportunity to meet the men and women who crafted your holiday gift item.
More than 86,000 visitors are expected to attend Expoartesanías, so get in line early. The fair is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
$17,000 peso admission (adults)