CHO'JAC ITEMS was founded 2016 based on the holistic approach of helping to save the ancient Indigenous Mayan technique of braiding net bags from extinction. Although the Cho‘jac [d̠͡ʑoˈχʔac] is mainly shown as an artefact in ethnological museums, it is still used today in the Maya-Tzotzil culture.
CHO'JAC ITEMS was created as an hymn to the unique art of making sophisticated net bags from cacti by the Indigenous Maya Tzotzil living in the high mountains in southern Mexico. Its founder, Thomas Kilian Bruderer has built-up a strong personal relationship with the collaborating artisans over the years and works with family-run small manufacturers who are actively involved in the entire product development process, including conception of new design variants and product ideas.
What is The Cho'jac?
The Cho‘jac is a net bag dating back to times immemorial and has its origin in the Mesoamerican lifestyle. Its unusual shape is due to the combination of the actual net with a leather strap positioned over the forehead to carry heavy loads. The fiber of the agave plant makes it extremely durable and creates and unusually stretchable weave. The traditional knowledge of its production is passed on orally from generation to generation, but the import of cheap substitute products and the resulting fall in demand pose a serious threat to the survival of this craft tradition.
A new life for the CHO'jac
For the Cho'jac project, the socio-cultural background forms the essential basis and motivation. The aim is to make the Cho'jac appealing to a larger audience and to integrate it into a larger context. At present, development is concentrating on combining the traditional Cho'jac with additional, sustainably obtained material components, of local production. In addition to the transformation of the traditional net bag, cooperation with Indigenous artisan families and the development of a marketing concept play an important role in order to secure the preservation of the tradition in the long term by generating new sources of income for Indigenous artisans.
EnVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
The Cho'jac Project follows a sustainable approach across the entire value chain. The vegetable-tanned leather used for the handle of the contemporary Cho'jas is locally sourced in Germany and processed in a workshop for people with disabilities. At the same time, the concept goes beyond mere production aspects and aims at an intercultural global dialogue. The result is a "luxury object" whose aesthetics are based on a kind of social bricolage. Its value lies not in an expensive, rare material or in social prestige, but in an embodied, sustainable process thinking, which newly combines craft, social and aesthetic aspects.
TRANSPARENCY AND DURABILITY
Each Cho'jac product label displays the identity of the supplier, the origin, the material, and the production/processing location of each item, ensuring full transparency and hoping to trigger more social impact thinking among customers. Furthermore, each Cho'jac item is designed in such a way that its owner can switch between two designs in a single piece. All components are extremely durable and are either repairable or replaceable. The metal rivets can be unscrewed and reused.
How does the CHO'JAC ITEMS create positive social impact?
In close cooperation with the local non-governmental organisation - Impacto! - CHO'JAC ITEMS organises courses in the Chiapas region to disseminate traditional cultural techniques among the local population. These courses are free of charge and are financed from the profits generated by the sale of products. Through these courses, traditional knowledge is sustained and transmitted to new generations in the region, thus contributing to protecting cultural intellectual property and reviving the popularity of this special craft.
If there is no market, the interest in maintaining weaving and traditional knowledge will dwindle more and more. By selling and promoting their handcrafted products to customers worldwide, the artisans benefit from fair compensation for their hard work, more orders, and a fond appreciation for their cultural heritage.
As a member of the Cultural Intellectual Property Rights Initiative CHO'JAC ITEMS aims to honour and to preserve the ancient technique of braiding nets in the Mayan culture.
More about CHO'JAC ITEMS here