Wabbani – Life is hand made

DPI, Guyana, Sunday, September 8, 2019

Heritage Month celebrations showcase the culture, craft, and history of Guyana’s Indigenous People. However, for many, it is more than just a display.

For some it is a chance to exhibit their life’s work, like 9-year-old Rachel Davis who owns her own business, for others, it is a chance to shine a light on something major, like the work of the team at Wabbani.

Wabbani, is an Arawak word, that describes the raised platform used by hunters – often in treetops – to wait for game. Project Coordinator for Wabbani, Shameer Khan, gives an insight into what exactly his company does and what they represent.

“For us, as a craft company, we want to serve as a global platform for all artisans in rural and remote areas, that’s our goal, and the revenue generated from all the sales from here will go back into communities that have been participating with us so that they have a collective benefit”

The company is based in the Makushi Village of Yupukari, where they employ a number of residents from the village to make a variety of crafts. These include Mukru panelled doors and tables, lampshades, and river clay knobs. They currently employ twenty persons to plait the Mukru, fifteen women who create the lampshades and around five persons currently make the knobs.

Khan continued “the Mukru panels are made from a reed-like plant that grows in swamps, it grows naturally. For many years, once every year during the dry season, the Mukru has been burnt out and we are trying to add value to something, trying to make people see how important this is, in terms of getting employment and all of that.”

Wabbani has been buying the cotton, used to make their craft, directly from the village and has since established a cotton farm in the village. The idea is that by fostering this development, in the future they can get more cotton so that they can do even more work.

The cotton farms belong to the women of Yupukari, and Wabbani has been providing them with assistance in maintaining the farm. Going so far as to fencing the land and constructing sheds. The next goal is to establish a well to help during the dry season.

Khan took some time to walk us through the process of making their flagship lampshade.

“The women remove the seeds from the cotton; then they spin the cotton. The spindle, has on a top, that has a latex from a balata tree, we also call it karmani, the other piece of wood is leopard wood, and then we have the shell of a turtle, so they spin the cotton and when there is enough like a ball, they begin the process of weaving.”

The cotton is then woven in a crisscross pattern, ensuring the strength of the item. The lampshade usually comes in two colours, the well-known white cotton, and a type of brown cotton that grows naturally in the wild.

Each lampshade takes roughly 2 days to make, and are handwoven, so they are of the finest quality.

One of the weavers, Maureen Laurendo heads one of the cotton farms in the village and is also teaching the younger women of the village, the skill of weaving the lampshade.

By providing jobs for so many persons and in turn many families, Wabbani has been a key player in helping to preserve these craft skills as they are passed from generation to generation. According to Khan, they have helped reduce migration from the community.

“In Yupukari, job opportunities are minimal, a lot of the youngsters would leave the community looking for jobs in other regions, even leave the country, sometimes many of them never come back, they leave their families there, but with Wabbani, there’s work there.”

Wabbani was showcased at a booth at the Heritage exhibition and can be found online at www.wabbani.gy where you can view their items and place orders.