Simply put, Almai is the story of a palm, a country, and it’s people. how on some of the richest land on earth they’ve interwoven their lives with these tropical leaves.
Colombia is a paradise of biodiversity. It is home to 10% of the world’s flora and fauna including the largest array of orchids, birds, and above all, palm trees. Of the 253 different species of palm is the Ceroxyon quindiuense, or the Palma de cera del quindio, Colombia’s magnificent national tree.
Colombians have used this natural abundance to their advantage for as long as anyone can remember.
Indigenous communities in the Amazon and along the Andes Cordillera have used the palm from the earliest recorded history until the present day to make tools and other artisanal necessities. The Kogi, Arhuaco, Wayú, Emberá, Inga, Koreguaje, Cofán, and countless other ethnic groups have a special purpose for palm.
The palm has also aided in Colombia’s development as a country, particularly in the agricultural sector. Hats are used to work in the fields. Bags used to transport crops or to package products (coffee, tobacco, carrots, onions, etc.) Mats are made for sleeping. Garments are woven from it.
In many regions, plastics have gradually replaced the more complex and time consuming process of making things from palm. Nowadays it’s hard to convince newer generations of the importance of these traditional crafts. Severely undervalued, palm craftsmanship threatens to disappear.
In the face of all this, off we went to meet those who resist and continue to work with this precious plant and to keep the tradition alive. We listened to them, observed their work, even lived with them for a bit. Little by little they opened up to us and we were able to see the passion that drives them. They shared with us their love of a job well done, the precision of their work, and the way in which the collective work brings the entire community together and brings hope to many families.
We asked them how they felt about creating new products, imagining new uses, and modernizing some designs and they were immediately receptive. Our discussion bore fruit. Now we’re in this together!
In collaborating, we hope we can perpetuate Colombia’s already rich heritage, put clichés to bed, and extricate ourselves from what has become an obsession with th violence and war of the past. We want to highlight the riches of a beautiful country and open up possibilities for future generations by making known the work of their parents and ancestors.
Almaï, a contraction of our two names, was born.
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Almaï was born of two lands intertwined.
Alexandra grew up between France, the land of her father, and Colombia, the land of her mother. Two countries she always sought to bind together and embrace. As she grew older, she realized that the earth and it’s fruits could be that link.
Mairet grew up in the Carribean. Raised in Cartagena but born up the coast in her father’s hometown of Santa Marta, nestled at the foot of the Sierra Nevada. As a girl she returned there often, searching for traces of her father, who left this world abruptly when she was very young.
Almaï offers unique traditional pieces made by Colombian communities, from a very particular material: palm fibers.
Each piece has its own plant, the know-how attached to it, and the history of the families who have managed to preserve it.