Travel the World in the City Different
Santa Fe International Folk Art Market
Ousmane Macina has been making jewelry since he was 7 years old.
Unlike American students who decide what careers they'd like to pursue, Macina says he was destined to be a goldsmith. "I didn't have a choice," Macina explains. "I had to do it because it's tradition, and I'm glad I'm doing it."
Macina was born in Nioro, Mali. The men in Macina's family have been designing gold jewelry for more than 10 generations. People wear his creations at traditional ceremonies and during the holy month of Ramadan. Macina keeps his familial legacy alive by selling his work at functions like the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. The event draws crowds of 20,000 people and, in its sixth year, the market will feature 136 artists from 46 countries.
Felt rugs from Kyrgyzstan, Chinese tribal garments and baskets from Rwanda are just a taste of the lush cultural landscape on display at the market. "It's an amazing sensory experience," says Artist Coordinator Ernesto Torres. "It's like being able to travel the world without all the challenges associated with going to 46 different countries."
Torres says the market is designed to help preserve and promote traditional artwork. It's also a vehicle to help artists who have their community's best interests in mind. "It's not just about past history but living history," Torres explains. "It's about how their work is used in their community."
Ninety percent of all the profits generated by the market will go straight into artists' pockets. Torres says the money provides a financial lift to artists in countries where people struggle to obtain basic necessities like healthy food and clean water. "They get an injection of wealth into their local economy and into their individual lives," Torres asserts.
About a third of the craft workers belong to collectives. That means money from the market gets distributed among several artists back home. Torres says many market vendors don't just use profits to enhance their own financial standing. They often reinvest the cash in their home countries.
Macina uses money from the market to help teach men and women in Mali how to make jewelry. He runs a center for artists in Bamako, Mali, where he resides. Traditionally, only men in Mali become metalworkers. Macina, who’s would like to shift that social norm. "The world is changing dramatically and it's getting very small," Macina says. "Everything is almost possible if you dream of doing it and you have the courage to do it." Macina says if more Malian women became goldsmiths, it would help lift them out of poverty. "Women wear jewelry a lot more than men," Macina reasons. "They'll probably be better at making jewelry."
The five-year Santa Fe market veteran says he will display work from Malian artists who can't afford to make the trip to New Mexico. "I collect their art and bring it to the show and they make a lot of money," Macina says. "The market brings happiness to my community."
Torres contends people journeying to the two-day market aren't coming with purely humanitarian goals in mind. They want to snatch up art from countries near and far. "It's very accessible, no matter what range of income you have," Torres insists. "The market really does invite and entertain."