written by: Gabriela Vasconcellos
photos by: Artur Ikishima
Meriane da Conceição learned her craft as an artisan from her mother, Maria da Conceição. Residents of the Lagoa Santa quilombola (former maroon) community in Ituberá County, Bahia, they get together every evening to make baskets, bags, trays and lamps, among other things, from piassava palm fiber. That way, they supplement their family’s income, which mainly comes from farming.
Both mother and daughter are celebrating the results of their partnership. “Together, we’ve built a new home. If it wasn’t for handicrafts, we would still be living in a mud hut. Today we have a three-bedroom brick-and-mortar house,” says Maria, a member of the Cooperative of Rural Producers in the Pratigi Environmental Protection Area (COOPRAP). Meriane, 17, says that as soon as she reaches the minimum age for membership (18), she will join COOPRAP too.
“Doing crafts is like tending a plant. I watch them sprout and grow, and they’re different every day,” says Meriane, who is in high school. In 2010, she completed the Agroforestry Systems qualification offered by the Agroforestry Family House (CFAF), where she also took classes that have helped the artisan improve her craft. “What influenced me most was knowledge. I learned a lot,” she says.
Her decision to enroll in the CFAF was inspired by her brother André Carlos da Conceicao, a Family House alumnus. He is now studying Business Administration and works in Finance and Accounting at the Institute for the Sustainable Development of the Southern Bahia Lowlands (IDES), an institution which, like COOPRAP and the CFAF, is part of the PDIS. “I want to be just like him. I want to write my own story,” says Meriane. For André Carlos, young people become protagonists when they are presented with opportunities. “That gives us a different outlook on the world,” he says.