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Commercial handicraft production by the Tembé people of Brazil (Paper 130)

Halley Mitchell


Commercial handicraft production is significant to Brazil’s Tembé Indians both for the ethnic pride it engenders as well as the revenue it provides. In producing handicrafts Tembé express pride in their heritage and strengthen their ethnic identity. Selling crafts also generates needed revenue to purchase those manufactured goods to which the Tembé have grown accustomed. Although the prices paid for handicrafts often do not highly compensate the artisans, handicraft sales are still an integral part of the Tembé economy. Handicraft production complements the Tembé’s routine activities of farming, collecting forest products, hunting and fishing. As they can produce handicrafts in between other activities—at times when people would otherwise remain idle—the flexibility of this commercial activity is well-suited to their lifestyle. In addition, the low capital investment and simple tools allow many individuals to participate in this economic activity. If adequate marketing channels can be established for these ethnic crafts, then handicraft commercialization may prove a increasingly significant activity for indigenous groups.

Keywords: Commercial handicraft. Tembé.

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