by Kamie Robinson
SANTA FE, USA — The deserts and heat of Santa Fe, New Mexico felt at home to the Bedouin women who traveled over 7,000 miles from the Negev to the International Folk Art Market to showcase their traditional weaving products and techniques.
As they embarked, the delegation felt a mix of anticipation and apprehension about what lay ahead. Their feelings were replaced by quiet confidence as they attended training meetings and pre-market events, met with Market management and Hebrew speaking volunteers, and mingled with market participants and attendees. The Market’s Executive Director, Charlene Cerny commented on first-time attendees, “As the fear leaves their eyes, and they begin to experience success, the change in their demeanor is profound.”
Hala Abu-Shareb, Director of Marketing for Sidreh, said that the Market was better than she imagined it would be. The number of people and variety of cultures in attendance surprised her. “It was like the whole world was in one place.”
Over 140 artists and artist organizations from fifty countries ranging from Rwanda to Bhutan and Laos to Bolivia participated in the Market. Conversing with artists returned compelling stories of their motivation, hardship, hope, and vision for themselves and their communities.
Sidreh’s delegation connected with Bedouin weavers from Sultanate of Oman and Muslims from Pakistan, and met many other artists from across the globe. Abu-Shareb said, “We are very different but so similar at the same time. We are all doing something from our culture and are dedicated to it because we believe in it.”
The estimated 22,235 attendees at this year’s market produced record-breaking sales of $2,314,065 during the three-day event, with 90% of sales revenue going home with artists. According to Abu-Shareb, sales at Sidreh’s booth were good, but the delegation’s most valuable take-away was the opportunity to network with potential buyers and feel connected to people around the world. “It was empowering for the women (in our delegation) to be there — to learn from others and show the world that we exist and are proud of who we are.”
Their positive experience motivated them to begin preparing to apply to attend the Market again next July. Given the opportunity, they plan to use their newly acquired insight and take more small bags, pillows and rugs in warm tones, and ask for a booth location that will allow them to set up a ground loom nearby.
On the return trip, Sidreh General Manager Khadera El Sanneh flew to Washington D.C. for a meeting in the White House while the rest of the delegation proceeded to New York where they spent a few days meeting with designers, educators, and journalists. While there they also delivered a presentation to the UN. Abu-Shareb is optimistic and believes the meetings and presentations went well. Time will tell how well as the ensuing days unfold.
Sidreh would once again like to thank all those who made this trip possible, especially Israeli industrialist Stef Wertheimer and Israeli high tech company Tower Semiconductor for sponsoring their travel expenses and Lynn Holstien and Margret Ellwanger for their contributions. They would also like to thank International Folk Art Market management and volunteers, those who took time to meet with them, and forPEACE for covering the event.