MÂKUA is a Colombian jewelry brand that works with indigenous communities and combines their ancestral artisanal techniques with contemporary jewelry.
We have launched several collections with indigenous women from the KUNA TULE ethnic group, famous for their molas ( textiles sewn on panels with the ancient technique of applied embroidery.) The KUNA TULE are located in the Urabá region of Colombia near the border with Panama. Makua has also collaborated with the women from the EMBERA CHAMI community located in the mountains of Antioquia. They weave intricate and colorful patterns with crystal beads. In our last collection, we partnered with an indigenous comunity from the Amazonas: The COCAMAS known for their woodcarving using sustainably obtained native woods like the palo sangre, or insira. Each piece made by these communities has an ancestral legacy and a special meaning according with their cosmogony and beliefs.
Our goal is to empower indigenous women in the communities we work with. In most cases the family income comes from men working in agriculture and it is not always invested wisely. We offer women a chance to earn income from their artisan work. This is vital for their family and community. In addition, they are encouraged to teach these techniques to the younger generations ensuring this legacy does not disappear with time. As a result we help preserve the cultural heritage of Colombia. The artisan pieces in our jewels contain a cultural legacy that reflects traditions, and cultural expressions from these indigenous groups. It is important to preserve this, not only for our country, but also for humanity. We strive to create timeless pieces that tell a story, the story of Colombia, and we want them to be as cherished as a treasure to keep.
The most important part of our work is the relationship with indigenous women. We work with fair trade policies and corporate social responsibility. We encourage and allow women to work in their place of residence so that they can combine it with their personal activities like childcare and family. We want our artisans to feel that their work can be a natural part of their lives. When establishing delivery commitments, we allow sufficient time so they can attend to other personal and family duties. We also encourage women to organize themselves as a working group and to diversify the different roles they can play at each community, contributing their strengths to the group. As we work with them, we train them in new design skills, which help them in all future endeavors.
Another fundamental component of our fair-trade policy is fair price negotiation, not imposition. After prototypes are made they set the price based on effort and time. Also, we never stop engaging or impacting any community that we have touched. After a collection ends, we choose “best seller” pieces and continue to produce them as part of our permanent portfolio. In this way, we have a permanent positive impact in their lives.
We mix ancestral techniques from indigenous communities with goldsmith work mostly in gold-plated bronze. Both components are handmade individually to create unique pieces. We aim to give our pieces a contemporary appeal. Even though they are made with ancestral techniques, we want them to look modern.
In MÂKUA we launch a new collection about every 18 months, with four derived capsule collections following the main one. This allows us to offer new pieces on a regular basis. Each collection has two lines: the luxury line with elaborate statement pieces that reflect the main theme and look of the collection, and the basic line with more commercial pieces to complement it.
Maria Paulina, founder and creative director of MÂKUA, was born in Medellin, Colombia. She graduated from University with a degree in Architecture. This allows her to approach jewelry not only from the aesthetics, but also from a technical and constructive way. At her return to Colombia after living in Buenos Aires for almost two years, she traveled to an indigenous community (the Emebra chami) close to her natal city Medellin. There, she discovers the crystal beads embroideries they made with ancestral craft techniques, and decided to convert this art pieces into wearable jewelry for contemporary women, and decided to turn her job in a real passion. That’s when she founded MÂKUA jewelry in Medellin, Colombia.
Maria Paulina splits her life between Medellin and Los Angeles where she lives with her daughter Olivia and her husband.