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Influence of Indigenous Culture in the Use of Ornamental Seeds as Fashion Accessories: How design can make the segment of biojewel more competitive?

Article  /  Essays   Fashion   History   Research   Theory
Published: 11.04.2018
Lia Paletta Benatti, André Carvalho Mol Silva
Edited by:
1st International Fashion and Design Congress
Edited at:
Edited on:

© By the author. Read Copyright.

Currently, with all the attention that governments and businesses provide to products and processes that do not harm the environment, grows the demand for natural products or minimally processed. The present paper approaches the modern use of Brazilian ornamental seeds as material for the production of fashion accessories, as part of the native culture that was absorbed and integrated by the modern Brazilian society, and how design can help artists and artisans to aggregate more value at the sector of biojewel.
Keywords: Ornamental seeds, indigenous culture, design, fashion accessories.

The use of ornaments in the body is done since the earliest times, by different people around the world. Over time there were studies of in numerous types of ornaments, some of those that symbolized the beauty, others indicated hierarchies and/or gender, among others, and were produced with the most diverse materials, factors that change according to each different civilization around the world.
No one knows for sure, but according to BUENO (2010) when the Portuguese colonizers first arrived in the state of Bahia, Brazilian Indians numbered a population of more than two million individuals. Currently, there are approximately 325 thousand Indians which are divided into 215 nations and speak 170 different languages. Despite the proximity in terms of territory, each indigenous nation has its own rules, and this also addresses the use of ornaments in the body, for example, despite the supply of raw materials like, each indigenous nation developed its own form of production and use adornment of the body.
There are several different ways for the use of body adornments as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.1: Ayupu, Kamayurá Indian wearing party vestments: paste rectangular platelets snail, crown vertical and feathered earrings. Yawalapiti village, the Xingu Indigenous Park, photo Fred Ribeiro, 1981.

Figure 1.2: 
Mara, Asuriní Indian, showing the
jewelry of her tribe: necklaces of bones and teeth cut fragments of coconut necklaces curassow. Photo Fred Ribeiro, 1981 (Ribeiro, 1988).

In the references of RIBEIRO (1988) it is noted the use of personal ornaments with a wide variety of materials. In addition to the extensive use of seeds are also used feathers, fibers, animal bones and teeth.
An example is the definition of the necklace given: adornment that circles the neck (...). They are very numerous and varied collars worn by the Indians in Brazil, usually of male manufacturing and of their exclusive use, but also of female elaboration and of both sexes use (RIBEIRO, 1988, p. 161).
Regarding the raw material of plant origin, for this type of adornment are: various seeds, palm nuts (whole, halved, trimmed in beads or carved as figures), fruit pits and bugle beads of bamboo.
Among the major accessories produced it can be highlighted the ear objects, belts, necklaces, breastplates, armbands, bracelets, anklets, bags, among many others. Some examples are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2.1: Metal ear pendant. Kadiwéu Indians. Draw according the Indian Museum.

Figure 2.2: 
Necklace of coconut rings. Kayabi Indians.

Figure 2.3: Jaguar teeth belt. River Uaupes Indians (RIBEIRO, 1988).

Another factor that influenced the form of use of ornaments by the Brazilian indigenous that cannot be overlooked, especially in what regards the materials used on the production, was the contact with different civilizations over the colonization of Brazil, mainly Europeans and Africans.
In his notebooks of drawings, on the early years of colonization, Jean-Baptiste Debret, a renowned French painter and draftsman that documented various aspects of nature, man and Brazilian society in the early nineteenth century, portrays several images of African slaves in Brazil and shows the widespread use of beads, in various colors, as a form of adornment (Figure 3). In the same way BANDEIRA (2008) cites that during the contact with Europeans along the colonization, the Indians became interested in materials such as glass beads, earrings and fabric. It is important to note that even today you can find indigenous handicraft using non-genuine material of their localities.

Figure 3: A Debret drawing shows the type of contribution from the Africans relating the use of ornaments. The drawings show colored beads, the use of earrings and various fabrics (DEBRET, 2006).

According to KRUCKEN (2009): local products are cultural manifestations strongly related to the territory and the community that spawned them. These products are the results of a network, woven over time, involving biodiversity resources, traditional modes of production, costumes and also consumption habits. Thus, Biojewel in Brazil is a reflection of the influence of Indian culture, where props with elements of nature, used to ward off evil spirits, were already produced before contact with the colonizers (CARVALHO, 2010).

2. Methodology
To achieve the proposed objectives it was developed a descriptive-exploratory study. According to GIL (1996) and MARCONI & LAKATOS (2003), this kind of study aims to fully describe a given phenomenon that involves theoretical and empirical analyzes, providing greater familiarity with the problem so as to make it explicit, facilitating the improvement of ideas.
This paper presents the preliminary results of research for the Master in Design at the University of Minas Gerais entitled: “Biojewels: improvement of techniques for a decorative finish in Brazilian seeds to increase the competitiveness of the handicrafts sector”.
The research presented was developed following the steps below:
- Identification and selection of seeds: through literature searches on various sources that discuss the historical aspects, techniques, economic sector, among others.
- Market study: mapping of the national production of bio-jewels, distribution channels, and perceived values.
- New proposals: the exploration of techniques of jewelry and ornamental seeds applied to evaluate the relevance of the results.
- Conclusion: data analysis, assessment of relevance, writing the paper.

3. Application of the seeds as material for fashion accessories
Currently, there are over 80 types of Brazilian seeds that are applied in the manufacture of fashion accessories, among these, the most commonly found in products on the market are: acai, babassu, bacaba, tagua, jatoba, jupati, morototó, Paxiubão, paxiubinha and many others.
Biojewel is the term used in Brazil to describe the fashion accessories such as necklaces, earrings, bracelets, among others, produced from genuine, natural raw materials as seeds, fibers and coconut, that up to this day are still considered unconventional materials for the jewelry industry.
The Biojewel is not a new segment in the market, but since the world has been focusing on producing products and generate profits in an ecologically and socially correct way this kind of fashion accessory has been gaining market share nationally and internationally.
According Okamotto (2008): Paradoxical as it may seem, the rampant globalization process valued manually way of production. The craft today is the counterpart to the massification and standardization of globalized products, while promoting the cultural revival and regional identity.
Watching this opening on the market, artisans, designers and companies take new products to enter this segment, which presents a different approach due to the use of materials that require special procedures throughout the production chain, where the care is essential in defining such processes to that does not change any of the characteristics that make these materials the main difference seen in the segment.
According to BANDEIRA (2008):
The different combinations of colors and forms provided by the seeds are not new, have a presence in necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings, as well as decorative objects, mainly from the 1990s.
Anyway, Brazilian designers and
jewelers took a long time until they began to use this material easily accessible, relatively inexpensive, that offers endless creative possibilities.
The jewelry is known for portraying aspects of what is valuable and eternal. The use of noble metals and gemstones give this kind of character to products that symbolizes love, marriage, celebrations, and any kind of special moments.
Due to these aspects, in jewelry, although they also work as adornment, few companies can approach the fashion in a meaningful way. There is still being used traditional forms, as well as materials applications.
On the other hand, fashion can bring a very dynamic and daring aspect for products. The work is made on the ephemeral and soon there is a greater demand for constant updates and the search for innovation is more agile.
According to SILVA and BENATTI (2010): Seeds may be used according to the need of the artisan. Using processes very close to the craft of jewelry it is possible to use the seeds in their natural form, also dyeing, machining (slicing, drilling, turning into gravel) sanding and polishing.
The ornamental seeds, although most of them have high durability, it stills gives a more ephemeral aspect to products, allowing different configurations when applied to jewelry, at the same time they are presented as unconventional materials, bringing innovation into the industry.
This type of connection tends to benefit both areas, the jewelry values the materials and the seeds can bring an aspect more innovative and dynamic for jewelry.

4. Competitiveness in the sector
The mixture of techniques and materials of different values has been increasingly common. An example of this acceptance concerning the diversity of materials in jewelry, is the Preview of Jewelry Design. Once a year the Brazilian Institute of Gems and Precious Metals (IBGM) publishes this Preview for the business sector. It is basically a book published on the objective to present the fashion trends in jewelry for the respective year. Since 2010, the Preview also incorporated the bijou as a way to stimulate creative design. This shows that it is increasingly thin the line between jewelry and bijou.
Observing the Biojewel market, it is clear that the closer the processes of jewelry craftsmanship are used to produce Biojewels, the greater is the value added to each piece. Figure 4 shows an example: a palm fiber ring carved, an example of work that shows an interesting application of the processing techniques of the seed.

Figure 4: Black Flower Ring in palm fiber (fruit male) of Angelsea Camargo. Besides the coconut palm fiber cut (FLAG, 2008).

According to Pezzolo (2009): The evolution of jewelry is closely linked to the art of different eras, techniques invented, lost, rediscovered and improved and the materials used.
The craft provides an express mastery of technique and tradition, it also works with the imagery of a specific culture, these factors allow the creation of a handmade product genuine. The journalist Adelia Borges (1999) expresses her review of Brazilian design as follows:
I am convinced that the Brazilian design entered by a dangerous drift when it left suffocating by the hegemony of functionalist principles. The classical design became aseptic and divorced from the popular. Importing the precepts of Europe, we put in our creation a straitjacket of "good shape", a good way for everyone, regardless of time and space. We tried to contain our joy, our colors, our overflowing and cannot go but a poor and outdated travesty of what was ‘out there.
Many mass-produced products have little differentiation, and the absence of regional components, after all the Brazilian population is diverse, and operational and market concerns may hinder the work directed by the regional. But the craft can be distinguished precisely by the value added through Biojewel of a local culture and, in addition to already fit a national product in fashion into several types of market, you can find various possibilities considering the reference source location of the artisan as a differentiation, but this way, new production techniques should be explored, developed and improved to enable such differentiation.
The choice of materials or their combination must also be appropriate to the concept Biojewel. Consumers of this type of product expect some aspects that refer to the nature, the environment and production with a sustainable profile. Therefore, parts that are similar to other materials like plastic or do not have some typical characteristics of natural materials, may not arouse the interest of the consuming public, that sees in the Biojewel a differential in relation to bijou, or even at conventional jewelry.

5. Conclusions
The natural resources and the culture of Brazil are the basis for the development of products that are directly linked to their place of origin, according to KRUCKEN (2009): It is necessary to promote innovative and sustainable solutions, bringing together producers and consumers, giving transparency and strengthening values that underlie the production and consumption.
Just as in jewelry, decorative techniques can be employed to produce a wide variety of surfaces, which may become the product innovation.
The use of ornamental seeds in the manufacture of fashion accessories has roots in Brazilian indigenous culture, but not limited to it. There is the need to highlight the influences suffered by many different peoples such as the European colonizers and the African slaves who brought new forms, materials and uses for adornments used in the Brazilian territory.
It was also observed that the use of seeds applied to accessories allows the jewelry industry to get closer to the pace of the fashion update, which accepts the mix of alternative materials of various origins.
Another factor that helps in a greater acceptance of the use of ornamental seeds is the environmental awareness which has been growing in recent years. Consumers are increasingly aware and seek products that are sustainable; which is one of the aspects of the biojewel.
And finally, as in jewelry the artist can create decorative finishes for the noble metals as a way of differentiating a product, the development and application of new finishes for ornamental seeds may present the same kind of result and shows a field to be explored.

6. Acknowledgement
This paper was initially developed for the discipline of Theory and Culture of Design given by the professor  Dr. Dijon De Moraes, in the Design Master´s Degree by the University of the State of Minas Gerais.



- André Carvalho Mol Silva e Lia Paletta Benatti. Biojoia: Aplicação de Materiais Naturais na Joalheria. Lorena: 5º Workshop de Design e Materiais, 2010.
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- Berta G. Ribeiro Dicionário do artesanato indígena. São Paulo: Editora da Universidade de São Paulo, 1988.
- Dinah Bueno Pezzolo. Por dentro da moda: definições e experiências. São Paulo: Editora Senac São Paulo,2009.
- Eduardo Bueno. Brasil: uma história: cinco séculos de um país em construção. São Paulo: Leya, 2010.
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About the author

Lia Paletta: Graduated in Product Design.
I started working in my own design firm in 2010, designing jewelry, fashion accessories and working with craft production. In 2011 I began my research with the biojewel theme (jewelry involving natural materials) in the Master in Design. Amongst the jewelry projects I am also a professor at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora in the Arts and Design graduation course, and now I am still studing for my doctor degree in Design.

André Mol: Graduated in Graphic design.
I work with craft production since 2005, when I started my first design firm. In 2008 I became a professor at the State University of Minas Gerais and four years later I started my reserach on creative economy in the Master in Design. By that time, beyond the graphic projects I was also developing fashion accessories with my partner. Today I am a professor at the Federal University of  Juiz de Fora in the Arts and Design course.