Telling my story through Saffron

Telling my story of immigration and cultural displacement was the driving force behind the creation of the Saffron series. This little 9 year old know it all travels the world with her family. Described as hilarious, quirky and spirited Saffron was a joy to write and a great company as I was also travelling the world with my young family.

Her insights, her humour and her ability to always get into tricky situations while visiting different cultures was something that I wanted to share with young children who may have never been exposed to other cultures and customs.  Being an author/illustrator in New Zealand also  gave me the opportunity to visit many schools in the Auckland area and talk to sons and daughters of immigrant parents. It was my pleasure and delight to meet all these young children who were so welcoming of my thick Spanish  accent and so eager to share their own family stories of immigration into New Zealand.

Meet my little Saffron’s family :

These are: Sage, Mum, Star Anise and Saffron. Illustration by Victoria Martinez Azaro

Saffron in Taiwan.

Saffron eating Yum Cha

Saffron in trouble in Siena, completely lost!!!!

 

So To learn more about Saffron go here

We teach best what we need to learn…

I have been telling my immigration story for the last 22 years. In different formats and through different vehicles I have been re creating my immigration realities and supporting my own identity transformation. My self representation and self identity has been an on going process which has gone through many different stages.

However, in the process of documenting my story as a way of understanding my new surroundings and my own journey as an immigrant in New Zealand I realized that the sense of lack that was with me all the time came from the lack of belonging… a lack of community around me… a lack of family…a lack of warmth from an extended group of caring people. Realizing and accepting this truth was not easy, but as I was processing my AHA moment I was writing “The traveling sewing box project” as a way of sharing, teaching and coming together to fill that void that unfortunately happens when we leave our family and everything that is familiar to us behind.

My story is a positive story, is a story of growth, a story of transformation and appreciation. It is my mission to create safe and encouraging spaces for immigrant women to get together and support each other in their own immigration journeys while sustaining and preserving their own culture, speaking their own native language and documenting their migrating realities in an ongoing piece of cloth.

It is with great pride and appreciation that I share this video of the first “Travelling sewing box project” which was implemented in association with ALAC in Hamilton New Zealand with a wonderful group of women from Colombia.

 

How the travelling sewing box is changing lives

Photo by: Sebastian Vidal Bustamante

When I first came up with this project, my intention was simple: To provide a safe and warm space for Latin American immigrant women in NZ to tell their stories, to share their journeys of migration and to sustain their language while stitching their  memories into a piece of cloth that keeps growing and extending.

What I didn’t expect was to witness the transformation that would take place within the group and within the women themselves as the project evolved from week to week. I know first hand that when you arrive in a  new country, no matter the surrounding circumstances, you are forced to evolve, develop and review your position in the world. In my case this generated a main shift in my own identity which created a horrible sense of dislocation, disengagement and an identity crisis which took me many years to overcome. This project gave me the opportunity to make other women’s journeys a little bit better and to share my own story of migration with them.

It was very moving for me to witness all the energies in motion as these women stitched their lives into our cloth. It was very moving also to experience that the stories and memories which were being stitched were creating new memories as the craft process was happening, and in doing so, new connections were being made, new processes were being learned and new possibilities were being conceived in front of all our eyes.

It was a privilege to work with these women, it was a privilege to work with ALAC and its wonderful team and a fantastic start to the cloth that will keep extending, will keep growing and will keep travelling as the travelling sewing box project travels from city to city in NZ and beyond!

Meet the amazing group of Latin American immigrant women from Hamilton, NZ. Wow, what a fantastic, talented and committed group of women.

 

The group working together, connecting individual stories into a bigger community piece.

 

How to change the world a stitch at a time?

All my life I have been involved in the fashion industry in one way or another, but I always felt that I wasn’t doing enough, that I wasn’t contributing enough.  I guess that’s what created this passion I have for teaching since I feel its a way of passing on knowledge and facilitating the environment for people to learn and absorb knowledge.

Immigrant women series by Victoria Martinez Azaro

That passion to contribute has been the guiding force behind “the travelling sewing box project”. I am happy to say that in association with ALAC we are launching the first workshop in Hamilton New Zealand. We are all very excited and I will be posting the progress here.

The project involves a travelling sewing box and its journey around Aotearoa-New Zealand to wherever a Latin American group of women is located. The travelling sewing box contains sewing materials donated by the local fashion industry as well as second hand items gathered from the community. Local materials from Aotearoa – New Zealand will also be introduced as a link to the New Zealand environment. Different kinds of wool yarns sustainably and naturally dyed with local materials will be explored in combination to textiles, yarns and dyes which originate from Latin America as a vehicle to celebrate cultural background as well as to develop strong connections with the richness and variety of the new adopted country. Through the process of making and understanding personal and community history through textile craft, women will be given a safe space to foster a strong identity within a cohesive and resilient community of women through empowerment and empathetic relationships.

Participants will have the opportunity to work with materials to sew, stitch/decorate and create by using their own cultural background and creativity to design their own work (they can also bring along their own materials if they desire) that will be part of a major piece of art, seemingly the construction of social tissue and strengthening communities on the basis of common cultural values, aspirations, experiences and lessons in the context of the never ending journey of migration.

The travelling sewing box is a celebration of participants’ cultural backgrounds, life journeys and memories through any particular crafts inherent to their own culture and language.

How has the New Zealand Fashion scene contributed to make this possible? Well, Ingrid Starnes has donated her workroom waste, Fabric Merchants/Drapers has donated rolls of fabric and Charles Parsons has donated off cuts and workroom waste. Its  a fantastic thing when one’s industry is so supportive and keen to work together to welcome Latin America immigrant women into Aotearoa/New Zealand.

The Travelling Sewing Box Project ©

Cloth with Memory

A project created by Victoria Martinez Azaro

As an immigrant myself, this project is very close to my heart and its main objective is to give immigrant women a voice and a sense of participation within society by giving them a space to slowly stitch their thoughts and feelings on a  piece of cloth while talking and sitting around other women in a safe and supportive environment.

flyer alac blog

Weaving social links

Jeanny Buan

A lot has been said about the eco – friendly fashion movement and its efforts and strategies to put an end to practices that harm the environment. However, we are not talking enough about the communities who were once affected by this global over industrialized world and we are definitely not doing enough to re build them.

Weaving social links within the Philippines indigenous female communities is what drives Viahera’s founder and designer Jeanny Buan. Having grown up in Cordillera, Philippines, she knows first – hand what it means to struggle every day for the bare basics and has made social responsibility, ethical practices and sustainable values her main focus within her design practice.
Viahera story begins in 2011 when Jeanny Buan moved to Canada. The beauty of this new environment sparked a love for traveling and hiking in the wilderness, but it also made her aware of the importance of preserving and sustaining our world. And so, as Jeanny traveled around the idea of Viahera was born.

“I chose the name Viahera, also spelled Viajera which means “Female traveller” in Spanish. This name is close to my heart as I am mixed race with a blend of Filipino, Spanish and Chinese”, Jeanny explains.

Fashion and Heart had the opportunity to sit down with Jeanny and this is a little snippet of what she told us:
Fashion and Heart: “You already told us about your passion for sustaining our environment but where does the drive to create a brand that fosters sustaining indigenous traditional crafts come from?”
Jeanny Buan: “In 2013, two disasters occurred which totally impacted my views on  fashion and its implications for women and nature. First, typhoon Haiyan devastated Philippines and left over 10,000 people dead and shortly after the factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed over 1,000 employees. It made me think of a potential solution that can help women inspire other women to dress up without harming the environment. VIAHERA WAS BORN. Viahera is an eco friendly brand of handbags and scarves made by Indigenous women from my home country Philippines in Cordillera, Cebu, Negros and Basey; and accessories which are locally handmade in Saskatoon, Canada. Our aim is to back to the community.”
Fashion and Heart: “What are Viahera’s core values?”
Jeanny Buan: “Respect, commitment to the environment, giving back to the community, inclusion and creating opportunity.”
Fashion and Heart: “Can you tell us about your “giving back to the community” strategy?”
Jeanny Buan: “Viahera gives back to the communities where we do business and where our products are made. In Philippines we pay for the tuition, monthly allowance and one extra curricular activity for three grade 7 Viahera scholars; we pay fairly to the weavers who are making the products, we raise awareness about weavers from Philippines in social media and we have an Annual giving- For the whole month of January and February, where proceeds from the sale of any pink product (wallet, handbag, headband, coin purse or scarf) goes to the Red Cross Pink Day program (bullying prevention education). In Canada we focus on the importance of immigrant inclusion and creating opportunity by employing skilled refugees or new Canadians that can help them gain confidence and experience in the Canadian workforce.”

Leticia Sab-it, Ruth Sanoy and Jeanny Buan at Pines City National high School.

Thousands of kids in Phillippines are unable to go to school due to poverty. Jeanny Buan was a government scholar while attending High School. Her company has developed a scholar system with Pines National High School to give back to the community where her product is made.

Fashion and Heart: “How are these values connected with your upbringing in the Philippines?”
Jeanny Buan: “I was able to finish my education through scholarships and I feel that I have the moral obligation to “pay it forward” and provide students the same opportunity that I had when I was a child. In terms of respect, my family, being mixed race, treated everyone with respect regardless of how they looked like or what language they speak. I owe it to my family for raising me to look beyond skin colour. In regards to the environment, I grew up not having much, we only had water from the tap three times a week so we would fill big tanks with water to have enough supply for the whole week. Some of my neighbors did not have electricity, we “re-used, reduced and recycled” so caring for the environment came naturally to me.”

Florentina coin purse $20 Canadian dollars. Photo by: Titanium Photography.

Flora Wallet $35 Canadian Dollars. Models: Aida Gossa, Melissa Cheetham and Kyarra Sumners-Daniel, hairstylist: Tina Monz, Make up: Hisa Quian, Photo by: Colin Chatfield

Click here to shop Viahera