Build­ing an ecosys­tem of weavers, de­sign­ers, seam­stresses, en­trepreneurs, and con­sumers to re­vive a for­got­ten sym­bol of iden­tity

Cebu Living - - Arts & Culture - By DENISE DANIELLE ALCANTARA Images by RYAN RACAL

Weaves are mak­ing a slow (very slow) come­back. With peo­ple com­monly as­so­ci­at­ing weaving with the com­mer­cial la­bel of “tribal prints,” more en­trepreneurs are find­ing sliv­ers of op­por­tu­nity in startup busi­nesses that also pro­mote the craft.

“Wear your tribe with pride” is the slo­gan of a Cebu-based so­cial en­ter­prise Al­ter­na­tive Nest and Train­ing/Trad­ing Hub for Indige­nous/ In­ge­nious Lit­tle Liveli­hood seek­ers, or ANTHILL for short. Founded by moth­er­daugh­ter duo Annie and Anya Lim, ANTHILL be­gan six years ago as a hub of lo­cal weaves where peo­ple went to pur­chase ma­te­ri­als in yards for their per­sonal projects or re­spec­tive busi­nesses. “We have a big­ger mis­sion that is for a lot of peo­ple to wear lo­cal weaves and use it. The com­mon mind­set is weaves are ex­pen­sive but have poor qual­ity. And that’s not how we want to po­si­tion our weaves. We want to make them ac­ces­si­ble for peo­ple and to ed­u­cate them about their value,” says “Princess Ant” Anya Lim.

Since the be­gin­ning, they wanted to bridge the gap be­tween weavers and the rest of the Filipino peo­ple—to tap com­mu­ni­ties to con­tinue their craft, pur­chase the prod­uct from them, and then sell it to so­cio-en­trepreneurs who can make shoes, clothes, bags, or even fash­ion ac­ces­sories with it. With a vi­sion to cel­e­brate a com­mu­nal spirit and to mimic the val­ues of hard­work­ing ants, the com­mon goal is still to work for food. Anya’s vi­sion is to build a healthy ecosys­tem that will thread Filipino peo­ple from all walks of life to­gether as a means of sur­vival for the dy­ing lo­cal weaving art form, and sur­vival of these com­mu­ni­ties as well.

There is more to it than pro­mot­ing the lo­cal craft. Apart from this gen­er­a­tion’s ig­no­rance of it, both in the ur­ban set­ting and indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, weaving is a dy­ing art be­cause no­body uses it. There is a say­ing that you are what you wear. His­tor­i­cally, cloth­ing has been used to iden­tify where an in­di­vid­ual comes from. Peo­ple could eas­ily as­so­ciate sig­na­ture pat­terns and tech­niques with a dis­tinct tribe. As weaving dis­ap­pears, we lose not only an art form but also our iden­tity.

In indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, it is ev­i­dent that only the se­niors con­tinue to prac­tice this an­ces­tral tra­di­tion. The younger ones are not in­ter­ested in learn­ing the craft since it is no longer rel­e­vant. “As a so­cial en­ter­prise, it’s re­ally the so­cial pain that you try to ad­dress and we felt that there was a huge gap with cul­tural con­ti­nu­ity.” Anya says. “But more than that, as a cul­tural en­ter­prise, the rea­son why we set up ANTHILL is to change the mind­set of Filipinos.”

Dur­ing Anya’s trav­els around Asia, she re­al­ized that weaves were still en­twined in the lives of the lo­cals. In some of our neigh­bor­ing coun­tries like Laos, Viet­nam, and China, it is a cus­tom to bring tourists to shops that sell hand­wo­ven fab­ric for sou­venirs. Even Gandhi was a big be­liever in the sig­nif­i­cance of weaving and the lo­cal cot­tage in­dus­try. He be­lieved in the power of the spin­ning wheel to not only unite peo­ple but also grow the econ­omy.




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