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Kene was originally an awareness and fundraising solidarity program supporting  women of the Peruvian Shipibo tribe.The project had humble beginnings in 2012 as a  travelling exhibition and program creating awareness of the unique traditional cultural knowledge of the Shipibo women, beauty of the traditional knowledge and practices of the Shipibo, as well as the environmental and socio economic challenges brought about by colonization and the ongoing challenges posted by the influx of Westernised cultural and economic systems. Funds raised from events are now being utilised to develop 'Project Kene' a range of parallel efforts in collaboration with Shipib artisans and Alianza Arkana, a local NGO based in Pucallpa Peru. 

KENE is the ancient tribal design work which is embroidered by the Shipibo women and embodies the healing vibrations of the songs of plants, and other sentient entities.

Project Kene responds to requests from Indigenous Shipibo women and youth for assistance in their artisanal enterprises, and their desire to take action in ensuring the vitality of their cultural practices and their rights as traditional knowledge holders and Indigenous women. The project, working in collaboration with local NGO Alianz Arkana offers a holistic program of cultural regeneration, leadership and creative industries development within the context of a rights based approach to development and women’s empowerment. It provides multiple strategies to assist artisans gain the recognition and access opportunities to benefit meaningfully from their art.

CHITONTI is a project to support artisans still utilsing old techniques and natural dyes to maintain their practies. Creating markets willing to pay prices that match the efforts of the women involves  educating consumers on the process involved in making these products from spinning and weaving native jungle cotton to preparing natural dyes and embroidering on these fabrics. 

NON KENE (meaning 'our design' in Shipibo) support s these Indigenous women as designers and artists in their own right through the establishment of a collective design brand, and more broadly provide training and mentoring to develop capabilities and gain confidence to participate more fully in society as leaders, entrepreneurs and role models in their communities.

The goal is cultivate the right to self determination, providing culturally appropriate livelihoods for Shipibos that place control of culture in the hands of Shipibos, reaffirming pride in Indigenous identity and supporting the continuation of eroded cultural practices while increasing income among artisans and youth of the Shipibo tribe. 

Why supporting Shipibo artisans is important?

The Shipibo Peoples of the Amazon suffer some of the most extreme poverty in Latin America and their lifestyles and cultures are exploited not only by extractive industries, but middle men and vendors of indigenous artisanal products and art.

After agriculture, artisan activity is the second largest employer in the developing world (The Aspen Institute, n.d.) and has a significant role in creating culturally appropriate livelihoods. 80% of Shipibo women gain some income from selling artisanal products, mostly by sitting on the side of the road selling to tourists in contexts in which they are vulnerable to both economic, sexual and other forms of exploitation. 

Selling artisanal products is the way the majority of Shipibo women meet their families basic needs. However, artisans often receive a reduced price for their products due to exploitative practices of middle men and vendors in Peru, and barriers to direct access of international markets. Online sales of Shipibo artisanal products by foreigners have increased, as has the appropriation of their designs in mass manufacturing without permission.

Our project does not only present an alternative to existing models of fair trade, it provides a solution that elevates the female artisan out of the role of solely being the producer of their traditional designs and art, while others receive the majority of profits, value, and control over operations and creative decisions. We intend to create a reference point for what really is fair and show that indigenous communities can be at the center of managing and controlling the use of their culture in a modern context for the future.