You might not be one for digging in sand, but in Colombia, women everyday from the department of Tolima get their hands dirty crafting bowls from volcanic silt which washes up on the riverbanks of the Magdalena.

From molding a raw material into a finished polished black earthenware used to serve a stew or rice, La Chamba pottery belongs not only to a specific region of Colombia, but is hard to find for those who don’t know how to identify it – and even more so – if one resides outside this country.

Like many of Colombia’s arts and crafts, creating a bowl from Chamba clay requires more than a skill: there’s the proximity to the material and a technique – which more often than not – has been handed down from generation to generation. At the tip of Colombia, in windswept hamlets across La Guajira peninsula, a similar ritual unfolds with the Wayúu, who in a hostile environment knit bright mochila bags and hammocks. Then, there are the goldsmiths of Mompóx and the hatmakers of Aguadas, Caldas.

Colombia is a country of many artisans who take great pride in their work and those of their fellow community members. The variety in the materials used, as well as the designs, has made this country unique and a destination for those looking for one of a kind items. Every year in December thousands of artisans from across Colombia box their items and ship them to Bogotá to be displayed at the Expoartesanias arts and crafts fair. The largest venue for showing the best of Colombian craftsmanship, the exhibition is housed at the Corferias trade fair grounds and covers an expanse of five pavilions.

Artesanias de Colombia turned 50 this year and this anniversary marks an important milestone for the promotion of arts and crafts in the country and around the world.

For visitors to the capital, Expoartesanias is a not to be missed event and a unique opportunity to talk with arti- sans from remote regions of this country about their trades, the symbolism behind many of their designs, and of course, purchase a beautiful item which was crafted in a small village high in the Andes or at the heart of Amazon.

Every region of Colombia is represented at Expoartesanias, and there are designs which have stayed the course throughout centuries, such as Huitoto bow and arrows, or the fiber baskets of the Sierra Nevada-based Kankuamo indians. Closer to the capital, the Andean highlands are also well represented with items made from virgin wool such as the Boyacá ruana, and the leather pouches – carriels – stitched in Jericó, Antioquia.

Expoartesanias by Artesanias de Colombia is more than a showcase of Colombian creativity: it’s an opportunity for artisans to meet for almost two weeks in the capital and exchange ideas on how to place their goods in a global market. As one of the country’s longest running fairs, the 24th edition of Expoartesanias begins Dec 5th and runs until December 18th.

This year’s Expoartesanias will host a long list of activities for the visitor: such as a repair workshop of traditional instruments, as well as cooking seminars with 56 cooks showcasing recipes with the traditional flavors of this biodiversity rich nation. For Liz Adriana Fetiva, Expoartesanía’s strategic coordinator, this year’s fair promises to innovate by dedicating the entire Pavillion 3 to traditional and indigenous artisans.

In the international pavilion there is the opportunity to pick up crafts from around the world, including India, Tunisia, Malaysia and the Dominican Republic. This year a large turn out is expected with some 85,000 guests. So, best get to Corferias during the opening days of the fair to pick up that beautiful Colombian souvenir and stock up on unique holiday gifts.

Corferias. Cra 37 No.24-67