All images: @maiharamarjorie
from seed to bead – how our yawa #together collection is made
From picking the açaí fruit to sanding the seeds, the whole Yawanawá community loves creating our beautiful new Yawa Bands and Necklaces
By EMMA ELMS
19 april 2022
Deep within the Brazilian rainforest live the Yawanawá Indigenous peoples surrounded by lush greenery, including towering açaí palm trees. ‘The açaí is very special to us,’ says campaigner Laura Yawanawá, whose husband Tashka is Chief. They have two daughters, Kenemani, 20, and Luna Rosa, 17, and have seen the Yawanawá community grow to 1250 people since the 1980s.
‘This project has made us learn something new,’ she says. ‘Before when we made açaí juice, we used to just throw the seeds away, but now we’ve learned how to use them to create different shaped beads. There’s something very special about that.’
To teach the Yawanawá community the skills needed, Laura and Tashka contacted an instructor from another Indigenous community nearby. ‘He’s from another tribe and had been working with açaí seeds and many other seeds from the forest for many years.’
So far, they have trained one of the Yawanawá’s seven communities as part of a pilot project for #TOGETHERBAND, which will not only help to support the rainforest but also aims to provide a long-term source of income for the Indigenous peoples. Their ultimate goal is to expand the training to all seven. ‘We want everyone to get really excited about this project and to motivate all the Yawanawá to use the seeds in this way. We know it could be very powerful.’
Here’s how the Yawa #TOGETHER collection is made…
The fittest, youngest Yawanawá community members climb the açaí palm trees to collect the branches containing sacred berries. The best time of year to harvest the fruit is from October until March.
The purple pulp of açaí berries, which look similar to blueberries, is extracted and made into juice, a popular drink for the Yawanawá people and the seeds are spread out to dry. The seeds are surprisingly large – about 0.8cm in diameter – far bigger than most fruits, making them ideal for jewellery-making.
The seeds of the açaí berries are covered with a natural fibre which is carefully cleaned off so they can be made into beads. They have a beautiful natural ecru colour, which works perfectly for the ‘Natural’ version of our Yawa Bands and Necklaces.
After being polished using special machines in the Yawanawá workshop, a hole is carefully hand-drilled into the centre to make each seed into a bead. #TOGETHERBAND funded the core materials, tools, work stations and equipment needed for initial production, with the long-term goal to build a permanent Rainforest Workshop and Atelier for the Yawanawá team.
The beads are then sanded into the three different shapes for our Yawa Bands: square, cylinder and round. The round beads are used for our Classic styles, with the addition of square and cylinder for our Multi styles. The bands and necklaces are gender-neutral and come in different sizes and colours.
Using natural dyes from a local supplier in Brazil, the vivid colours of the 17 Global Goals are carefully custom-mixed for the beads by the Yawanawá artisans. Our most elaborate pieces are the Multi Yawa Band and Necklace, which represent all 17 Global Goals, with individually hand-dyed beads of 17 different colours.
Finally, the beads are hand-threaded onto Parley Ocean Plastic® rope with a single distinctive silver Humanium Metal bead, created from upcycled illegal firearms, seized in El Salvador.
The Yawanawá people enjoy wearing the Yawa Band samples alongside their other traditional colourful cuff bands. The whole community gets involved, both men and women, bonded by the love, creativity and care that goes into making the Yawa Bands.
This article was originally published for our Kickstarter project in September 2021 and has since been updated
100% of profits from the sales of Yawa #TOGETHER products go to the Yawanawá community