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KPBS Midday Edition

San Diego Exhibit Puts Women Empowerment On Display

Members of the Gahaya Links Cooperative at their Kigali workshop weaving baskets, Rwanda, 2007.
Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives That Transform Lives
Adam Bacher
Members of the Gahaya Links Cooperative at their Kigali workshop weaving baskets, Rwanda, 2007. Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives That Transform Lives
San Diego Exhibit Puts Women Empowerment On Display
GUESTS:Margaret Hartnett, Director of Education and Visitor Experience, San Diego Museum of ManRex Garniewicz, Deputy Director, San Diego Museum of Man

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. For generations able and about different cultures to conflict and war. In terms of was the refund the nation conquered. Oftentimes we have heard that women stayed home prepared food raise children. Now by collector's fees are showing the world with women have been creating for citrus ñ if you could fold folk art and make this can make deficit and crest of a creative preserve a trace cultural heritage. A new existence a new exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Man features that works of ten women artisan projects from around the world. The exhibit is called empowering women. I would like to welcome my guests Margaret Harnett and Rex Garniewicz. How was this put together? Give us some background on this. REX GARNIEWICZ: This was actually put together by the Museum of Folk Art in Santa Fe, they have an annual market there and there were women coming from around the world that not only had beautiful works of art but they also had really compelling stories, and they decided to take ten of these artisans from around the world and create a show about them and their stories. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What nations are we talking about? MARGARET HARNETT: Ten different ones all the way from Africa Kenya, Rwanda and Swaziland, we're also going to India and all over the world. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It's really a global show. What ties of handcrafted art do these women produce? MARGARET HARNETT: We have gorgeous baskets and fiber cloths, it's really quite beautiful as you walk into the exhibit the amount of different things in the color of the life that they give to these pieces of art. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And the intricacy of the skill that it takes to create the right? MARGARET HARNETT: Just amazing and really with all of these amazing pieces of artistry when you explore the exhibit it's really the stories that stand out to you. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I wonder if these skills handed down through generations? MARGARET HARNETT: Definitely, it is a cooperatives going through generations and that is where some of these cooperatives come from, that skill is being lost, and some of the younger women were doing other things and only the elders were continuing his work, to some of the cooperatives this is their goal is to make sure for future generations have the skill. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I think if people go on and say they could see a few photographs of the kind of folk art that will be seen at the empowering women exhibit. I wonder though, can you tell us what is an artisan cooperatives? How do these women organize their business? REX GARNIEWICZ: It's really interesting to see across cultures, that these women artisan cooperatives have been started by a powerful women entrepreneurs, that have an idea and they will bring more people on an trade them they often face a lot of adversity, there are opponents of the committee that don't want them to of land or start their own is this, and yet the managed to push through all of that, and in the end the reason that these artisan cooperatives are so important is that the women use the money that comes into that to really change their community, to help orphans from the AIDS epidemic or women that have suffered the ravages of war and if it raped in all of these terrible things, it starts with beautiful hard but it ends with improving people's lives in the community and that is what is really powerful about the show. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How successful have some of these artisan cooperatives been? MARGARET HARNETT: Very successful, some of them are gone from a neighborhood come together to really having the cooperatives in over eighty different regions of the country, they have really spending everything for example one in Ware has become international and they have partnered with a London-based designer and it's all over the world that this cooperative is selling their goods as one of having artists and things like that kind is incredible how large some of them have become. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You're able to some of these artifacts and to publish your stores? MARGARET HARNETT: Not necessarily department stores but fair trade market. A would go so far as to go into malls and department stores, but more community markets and their trade centers, we have some featured in our own store at the museum and we of course are going to have a market does July to bring some of these artists to the museum for people to meet them and hear their stories and purchase of the items. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Some of the women artists in this exhibit is a bit solely about what they create about them personally, tell us a couple of their stories if you could. REX GARNIEWICZ: One of the stories that I really find the most moving for me when I heard about it, the woodwork couple of women start of the cooperative and used it to heal after the genocide against the Tutti and one of the witness and women artisans in the show, sixty-five of her family members were killed in the genocide and she writes or speaks in the exhibit and says that when she found is that art heals a hopeless soul, that is so moving and it really does, which she did through working with this quite what if because they brought in some the other people, brought in over 4000 weavers from across the country, she went up working next to the woman whose husband had killed her family. He had been imprisoned and they became coworkers and friends and she was able to forgive everything that it happened in the past, and move forward with her life through this art. When I read a story like that it makes you really realize how small your problems are compared to the problems that exist elsewhere in the world. That is kind of the reflective thing that we want people to have, to contribute more and do more for community and help people. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That is a powerful story, you share a story with us Maggie? MARGARET HARNETT: A group of weavers are called East meets West and they're combining heritage and traditional reaping with more op modern influences, I believe is interesting is that some of these weavers feel that this heritage makes them feel that they are in a theme park, and that the same time that this with the purchasers, that is what they're looking for is the heritage considered as a constant question in battle between what is sellable and what the artists heart wants, and I think that some of the questions that are asked throughout the exhibit, their apparent point and counterpoint plaque status people to think about the artistry that you're buying something that is their heritage but also to look at where this is going, culture is not static and it does not sit still, it changes is in growth as people grow and that is an adjusting thing to think about. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: These events tied to this exhibit is a lecture on micro-lending, this is how some of these cooperatives, started? REX GARNIEWICZ: It is how they got started in one of the interesting things is that they have been able to a tremendous amount with a very little quantity of startup money, so $1000 goes really for some these countries in a way that it wouldn't the United States, and so there's potential for anyone to sort of help start one of these artisan cooperatives. See what I'm interested what you've both been saying about the subtext of this exhibit, it is challenging visitors to become engaged in these women's lives and also to think about their own lives and it reminds a of the torture exhibit that is still up the Museum of Man Invites museum goers to explore their ideas but the use of violence, this is a theme that you are developing using exhibits to confront larger issues and really get that kind of deeper response from the paper will go through museum? REX GARNIEWICZ: Yes we have to focus on trying to do that with our exhibits and not just tell stories about the past and the cultures, but to make this stories relevant to the past and the present in our culture, we want to make those connections so that when people see this they realize something about the themselves, something they like and need not to change, but is important to them that there is his connection to their lives and your knowledge is looking at other cultures and isolation, we do that through exhibits like instruments of torture empowering women, but we have fun exhibits like beerology, it's not all doom and gloom. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And there are a pretty object to look at in the empowering women exhibit. MARGARET HARNETT: Yes the beauty and the splendor of these items they make, but really to think about it we don't want to necessarily be a big downer on things and go in and think about that, but also see the peace that comes out of it that Rex was talking about with the limited we want at that there is hope, that they are working towards. REX GARNIEWICZ: I was actually in the exhibit this morning to see what people were saying and watched and listened to what people were saying in the most common response was worth, oh how beautiful would look at that one, but it was interesting to see how the objects to people in first and then they read the stories and became more reflective about the content. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And now you're going to have a lecture on micro-lending, what other kind of events are tied to this exhibit? REX GARNIEWICZ: We're having a folk art market, that is happening in July 19th and 20th that is over the weekend and during the day, it will be in the museum rotunda and it will be a beautiful area to have a copy will be of the commentary they are considered the artisans were hoping to get featured in the exhibit as well as some other ones as well, they'll be performing their artistry as well as selling it to be able to talk to them, that is a very exciting when they were having in July, and the other discussions and things such as one called folk art matters, that is another kind of weekend discussion with people can come by and let a little and think about things. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This really sounds like something that families might want to attend with their kids, with the pretty stuff to take a look at. REX GARNIEWICZ: Absolutely, we also have stuff for families and we have designed this exhibit space with seating this is something that all people rise asking for is that people can sit and talk about some of the art and stories the of seeing, it is a very comfortable exhibits reappeared MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Excellent, I want to let everyone know that the exhibit will be up at the San Diego Museum of Man throughout August 17. I've been speaking with Maggie Harnett and Rex, Garniewicz with the San Diego Museum of Art, thank you very much.

For generations, people learned about different cultures through conflicts and war. Often times, the picture we came away with was one in which women stayed home, prepared the food and raised the children. But now, micro-industries are showing the world what women have been creating for centuries - intricate folk art, and hand-crafts that both create and preserve a community's cultural heritage.

A new exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Man features the works of 10 women-led artisan projects from around the world. The exhibit is called: Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives That Transform Communities.

Samburu women singing in Umoja Uaso Village, Kenya, 200s.
Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives That Transform Lives
Stephanie Mendez
Samburu women singing in Umoja Uaso Village, Kenya, 200s. Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives That Transform Lives