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Some questions you may have about Mayan arts and crafts and the educational role of Pro Arte Maya...

Do the Maya need their crafts in the twenty first century?
In this age of technology and computers, Mayan people still make the argument that arts and crafts have an important place in their lives. History tells us of the disappearance of the arts and crafts of many indigenous cultures when colonizing powers, or in the present day, globalization, introduces new trade and economic systems as well as new raw materials. While some Mayans may place less importance than others on the continuance of a living tradition of arts and crafts, many have a deep commitment to retaining them. They point out that the production and use of traditional crafts help to counteract the growing spirit of consumerism which can alienate people from their relationship to the earth, to the processes of making things, and to the appreciation of beauty.

Image from Pro Arte Coloring Book byMaryln Anderson. Click on photo for enlargement.

In some schools we see Maya children learning computer skills, which is entirely appropriate. But a primary goal of Pro Arte Maya is to help give Maya children the opportunity learn about and practice their traditional arts and crafts that are a central part of their cultural heritage. We feel that the experience of working with their hands and with natural materials from their environment allows them to experience a connection with nature, and a reverence for the gifts of Mother Earth. These aspects of the Maya ethos can be learned through children working with traditional crafts.

In several books written fifty or more years ago, the writers predicted that the Maya people would be enveloped by the industrial age and eventually lose their identity along with their customs and crafts. The resilience of the Maya in the twenty first century belies this prediction. But education has a role in helping traditional arts retain their role as “living arts” not only for export or for sale to tourists

What is the role of arts and crafts in the lives of Maya children?
Many Maya school children in Guatemala know about the arts and crafts made in their communities, and they often use various craft items in their homes or at play. At times, they help out parents who are artisans and learn skills from them. In certain towns, they see artisans at work in numerous nearby homes. Some Maya school children still wear their town’s traditional dress, which may be woven by their mothers or made in their town.

How can a coloring book help children to understand about Maya arts?
A coloring book is only one way for children to learn about their Maya arts and crafts tradition. But it can affirm the cultural significance of arts and crafts and increase children’s consciousness and knowledge of them as part of their Maya heritage. The images and their texts also integrate issues such as economics and ecology that relate to the fragile balance that allows their continuation. The use of the teacher’s guide greatly extends the scope of the coloring book through suggested exercises and activities.

Why is it important to translate the coloring book into Mayan languages?
Each of the world’s languages represents an individual way of thinking about ourselves and our environment. Knowledge of one’s indigenous language contributes to a sense of self esteem, identity and belonging.

Thus, respect for and use of traditional Mayan languages, which have richness and nuances of expression apart from Spanish, are still other important goals of Pro Arte Maya. Throughout the world, many indigenous languages are disappearing. By providing a book with text in Mayan languages, we help, even if in a small way, to encourage their continued use. Teachers using the coloring book in Consejo Maya bilingual schools are pleased to have an additional educational resource in their Maya language.

How can a coloring book, used with a related educational program, connect the arts and crafts traditions to issues of preserving the environment and consumerism?
By encouraging and helping children to analyze the role of arts and crafts in their lives many issues can be raised, from preservation of natural resources to why biodegradable crafts help preserve the health of planet. Understanding consumerism can be approached by helping children to value the remarkable artisan skills of Maya people, which allow them to continue to be “producers” and not only “consumers”.

Discussion of arts and crafts in relation to the environment and consumerism takes on additional importance because, increasingly, ecological craft items made from natural materials are replaced by items made of plastic and imported clothing takes the place of hand woven traditional clothing.

Support Pro Arte Maya:
Any organization, group or individual can help with a financial donation for the support of the project.
Donations are applied to administration, and the printing of more coloring books for distribution to children. A donation of $35.00 will pay for coloring books for twenty five Maya children.

Tax-deductable contributions can be made to our fiscal sponsor, Rights Action, an organization doing rights-based community development work with offices in Washington D.C., Toronto, and Guatemala City. Checks should be made out to: Rights Action, with “Pro Arte Maya” on the “For” line.

Please mail Pro Arte Maya donations to:
Marilyn Anderson
34 Nicholson Street, Rochester, NY 14620
Checks are forwarded to Rights Action.

Or E-mail Marilyn


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