At the end of the third day, the two male ministers came to have a closing ceremony and to pick up the two female teachers. First the women of the Calcutas who wanted to speak gave their thanks to the teachers and the ministry for their assistance. "Mary," the group's president was not there, so Anita, as past president, spoke and thanked them for coming, and for teaching the women a new skill. She said they hope to continue to learn, and any future help would be much appreciated. Aleja and Enith both spoke along the same lines. I got my camera on, on video, for the end of Aleja's speech, for Enith's, for Mami Petrona's and for a second piece by Anita.
The older of the two men then spoke, too, saying things such as, "What you really accomplished these three days was not these individual works, but the work of community making." Also said that they hope to continue the relationship, that this workshop, the work of their hands, was really just a seed, a beginning. He offered a prayer, and at the end they gave the women a set of books that I think are somewhat proselytizing, but also offer some practical wisdom. In a place where people do not have a lot of access to or money for books, but where they see the value of them and avidly look over books they receive (evidenced by the enthusiasm everyone has shown for the collection of Apache tales and legends and the Atlas of the Earth that I brought), the symbolic value of giving free books to everyone certainly resonates.
Two things I found ironic or disconcerting about the closing of the workshop:
First, I thought it was ironic that the minister chose to preach about the need to make community, and how they had started to do so here during the workshop. The women of this community and this organization have been working in some form collectively for their entire lives. They already know more about community making than could fill a dozen books--whether we're talking about family based collective effort or community-wide mingas, or the informal social support network that includes people with a milk cow sending milk daily to relatives with babies and no cow, these women already know what functional community means. To have a man from the city come to them with his words of wisdom on this topic seems pretty patronizing to me as an observer.
The second disconcerting thing was more
personal. I had only been around the margins of the workshop--popping in at the
end of the first day, when I helped Anita (at her request) finish tracing her
first pattern onto a cloth, and visiting briefly with some of the other women.
I came back from Saraguro and an interview with Zoila Chalan (see below) for
the last hour of the final day, and helped a bit with hanging finished pieces
on the walls for a final display and some photos. Took photos for Enith with
her camera, as she asked, and took photos of a couple of the women with their
completed pieces so I could bring them prints later (as they requested). Then I
took video footage for them of the closing ceremony--this was the extent of my
involvement with the class. So I was a bit startled and disconcerted when both
Enith and the minister verbally thanked me for my assistance. I guess the
presence of an outsider, and an
Next week the Calcutas will resume their regular Tuesday afternoon meeting and collective artesania work session.