Initially idealized as a poverty fighting project to work in areas devastated by drought, Artesanato Solidario/ ArteSol was conceived in 1998 as a social program and after 2002 it became an OSCIP - civil society organization of public interest.
ArteSol’s aim is to promote handcraft produced according to the knowledge shared by specific groups, which transmits repertoire and technique that is passed down informally by elderly member of the communities, reflecting their lifestyle and using raw material available locally. Therefore, its mission is to rescue and promote these traditional handicrafts as Brazilian cultural heritage, as well as promoting human and technical development in order to expand artisans’s job opportunities and income generation, contributing to the socioeconomic development of the Brazilian localities.
Among the reasons which led ArteSol to its creation, it must be mentioned: the loss of cultural characterization in most part of handcrafts sold in different parts of the country; the increasing lack of technical knowledge related to specific socio-cultural contexts; the paradox of the coexistence of cultural richness with extreme poverty in towns located mainly in northeastern Brazil; the potential of craft activity to generate income for communities outside the major economic hubs and the importance of preserving particular characteristics in the context of globalization.
Considering handcraft as much a possibility of income generation as a cultural form of popular expression, ArteSol guides its actions by respecting the particularities of the producing communities. Citizenship promotion is a transversal aspect in the whole work, being present in products improvement workshops, in the strengthening of the associative organization, in learning of pricing and sustainable use of natural resources.
ArteSol’s performance also includes actions that aim to expand consumer market of crafts, informing buyers about the production process, the cultural origin of each product and facilitating direct contact between consumer and producer groups. To enable these actions, ArteSol has a commercial partnership with Tekoha, a social enterprise that sells sustainable gifts, to strengthen and promote the concept of fair trade in Brazil, to create effective mechanisms for Brazilian products to be more competitive and better placed in the fair trade system both nationally and internationally.
Traditional handcraft is a product with peculiar acceptance in global economy. Despite the changes which are inherent in historical processes, current production is created within the communities themselves from their cultural background. In this context, the establishment of the fair value of the product, the conquest of markets and the ability to manage its production contribute to make craft into an economically viable activity. Moreover, according to its actuation, in 2006, ArteSol was the first Brazilian organization recognized by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), becoming part of the group of organizations whose mission is to improve the living conditions of small producers.
Thus, ArteSol has promoted the strengthening of local identities, revitalizing the existing handcraft and encouraging the transmission of knowledge to younger people. In this effort, during its 12 years of work, ArteSol has developed 98 productive groups in 17 Brazilian states, involving about 5,000 artisans and indirectly benefiting more than 20,000 people.
To Artesanato Solidario, the sustainability of its actions undertaken with its individual projects lies precisely in the reconstruction of local identities. In addition to the promotion and revitalization of the knowledge of the communities, ArteSol has been registering, though not systematically, its various manifestations, so as prevent its disappearance. Thus, ArteSol has been contributing to the process of safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage in Brazil. Three crafts from different associations empowered by ArteSol were selected by the Ministry of Culture as Brazilian intangible heritage and are registered in the book of knowledge of the national institute of historic and artistic heritage: pottery from Goiabeiras (state of Espirito Santo - 2002), musical instrument (viola de cocho) from the states of Mato Grosso do Sul and Mato Grosso (2005) and Irish lace from Divina Pastora (state of Sergipe - 2009).
* This article contains texts fragments on Artesanato Solidario from Regina Dunlop and Marina de Mello e Souza.