In the coastal Colombian municipality of Tumaco, Asociación Morros Joyeros (Moorish Jeweler’s Association) specializes in the creation of fine filigree jewelry. Members of Grupo Morro cast, wind, laminate, and weld their own silver wire. The unique filigree method practiced by these artisans involves plaiting silver threads in the style of Palenchera braids worn by Afro-Colombian women to honor the beauty of black people. With this technique, they create jewel-like knots that form leaves and flowers emulating the flora of their local environment.
Due to ongoing armed conflicts and the involvement of armed groups in the gold trade, the tradition of jewelry making in Tumaco is in danger of vanishing. There are only five master artisans still practicing in the region. Asociación Morros Joyeros helps them market their jewelry. The main objective of the group as a brand is to provide the jewelry trade with a commercial alliance and support structure that gives opportunities to young people and master jewelry artists to earn a stable income. They also work to motivate more women to become involved in the jewelry trade, which was historically a domain of men.
The challenges faced by people in the region are exemplified by the story of Deisy Liliana Ortiz, a member of Grupo Morro. Deisy’s father was killed in the armed conflicts when she was only two. She lost her mother when she was 17. In order to support her siblings, Deisy focused her efforts on learning the skills of a master artisan and teacher. “Jewelry has become an important part of my life,” she says. “[Jewelry making] is a very beautiful job, and I do not see myself doing anything else. I see myself doing this in the future, not only for personal reasons, but because I feel good about my contribution to the youth of my country.”