who we are
Xol Original is a non-profit arts and education organization incorporated in Colorado. Initially formed in February 2014 as a natural outgrowth of the relationships with indigenous artisans of Guatemala and Mexico, we offered an interface for patrons of indigenous artisanship to custom order beautiful handmade footwear.
But the “material goods” of artisan handcraft are only a small, physically visible aspect of culture originating from indigenous traditions and practices, at the core of which is an uniquely indigenous understanding of the interwoven relationship of nature and human life. In 2015 we became a non-profit organization to include the scope of our vision.
Xol Original envisions a future which enriches, revitalizes and exchanges sustainable practices informed by indigenous knowledge of an inseparable relationship of all peoples to the natural world.
From this vision springs the mission “to safeguard the noble wealth of indigenous traditions through sustainable offerings that teach respect for nature and all human life.”
august 3-5, 2018 arise music festival - come find our booth!
june 22, 2018 xol original kin launch party - denver
CHAC Gallery- Chicano Humanities and Arts Council | 772 Santa Fe Drive
June 29, 2018 xol original kin launch party - boulder
Boulder Shambhala Center| 1345 Spruce Street
Want to see us at an event? Email us at:
REKINDLING THE ANCESTRAL FIRE:
Indigenous traditions are at a crossroads.
On one hand, against great odds and despite centuries of colonialism, many indigenous traditions continue to thrive and even develop in vibrant and inspiring new directions.
- Indigenous musicians such as Supaman (Crow Nation) and Balam Ajpu (Maya) are blending traditional language, dance, and indigenous wisdom with new forms, like hip hop, to engage indigenous youth and reach wider audiences.
- Textile weaving arts, traditions with over 5,000 years of history in Central America, are vibrant and varied, with many weavers producing textiles for increasingly more accessible, high-end markets. And many women (the great majority of weavers) are self-organizing into cooperative business models for greater work autonomy.
- Many indigenous communities are turning traditional, land-based ways of living into sustainable educational and tourist enterprises that teach outsiders about indigenous culture.
- And more Native youth are pursuing an interest in the arts or fashion design with a focus on designs and motifs inspired by their tribes and upbringing.
Indigenous news outlets have publicized some examples such as the above, but many people remain unaware of such developments.
On the other hand, indigenous traditions still face many CHALLENGES.
Some of these challenges have existed since the beginning of colonialism. Others have come into play in the more recent past. But all indigenous cultures face some or all of these threats:
Around the world, young indigenous people continue to migrate to the cities to find better jobs, moving away from the older generations who would normally pass onto them the traditional stories, language, and customs.
Indigenous languages are being lost as tribes are fragmented and assimilated into mainstream culture. Half of the world’s 7,000 languages face extinction, and only 0.1 percent of the world’s people hold a full 80 percent of its languages.
Not only are languages themselves lost, but a wealth of knowledge about the relationship to nature, plants, animals, medicines, land renewal techniques, farming, cultural histories, and calendric knowledge, as well as wisdom about rearing children, rites of passages, or peacekeeping accords, are lost with them.
Many indigenous peoples face economic marginalization through systematic exploitation of their lands by extractive industries (such as mining, petrochemicals, and palm oil plantations, to name a few). For many indigenous peoples, land is life.
Seeds of indigenous food crops, such as maize, the traditional farming methods used to grow them, and the farmers who sustain their families with them, are threatened by the industrialization of agriculture and patent control of hybrid seeds by giant agribusinesses.
Cultural appropriation of “tribal designs” abounds within the fashion industry, with little to no recognition given to the origins of the designs, their cultural significance or the Native designers. This undermines the value and cultural significance of traditional dress, reducing the deep meaning of such designs to their market value at the expense of real cultural understanding and respect.
Mainstream culture and consumerist lifestyles are glorified and dominate the media, while the authentic voices and portrayals of indigenous cultures and traditions by indigenous people are marginalized. A lack of platforms and channels for cross-cultural dialogue and exchange leads to a lack of cultural understanding.
Xol Original stands right at the middle of these crossroads.
Since 2012, we’ve been building relationships with indigenous artisans, artists, musicians, shoemakers, farmers, poets, weavers, ceremonialists, and educators.
Ourselves shoemakers, we began with a shared meal and an inspired design collaboration with a single shoemaker in San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala.
Since then we’ve helped make custom shoes for hundreds of people, and we've talked with hundreds more about indigenous traditions, artisanship, and realities. We’ve donated technical equipment and raw materials.
But we’re not stopping there. In 2015, we became a non-profit with a mission to safeguard indigenous traditions.
- We’re developing the Xol Original Traveling Fashion and Art Exhibit, to incorporate original, interactive educational material about the rich diversity of indigenous traditions in Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States.
- We’re fostering collaboration between artisans in Guatemala and Mexico, and we’re extending our collaborative network to indigenous tribes on the island of Taiwan.
- Most importantly, we’re developing our Kinship Program and offerings to you, the supporter of our initiatives, to shine a spotlight on cross-pollinating creative endeavors by indigenous traditions around the world.
This is just a start. We have many more things planned for the coming years.
Walk with us, in your shoes.
Become Kin today and join the Xol Original family of small-scale, indigenous, beautiful craftwork, dedicated to preserving the roots of that work. As Kin, you pledge through both financial and spiritual means, to the restoration of indigenous cultures.
Each Kin commits to a monthly donation. For each commitment level, a gift of Xol Original shoes is made accordingly. You may take the gift for yourself or arrange for it to be donated on another's behalf.
Lending a Hand:
(One hand = 5 digits)
$5/month: one pair of custom-designed, handmade shoes every 2 years.
At this level we encourage to volunteer at our events, assist with coordination, or help with other simple tasks related to our mission. This is a good opportunity to meet people and learn more about indigenous traditions in the areas of the world in which we work.
Giving Your Gift:
(Two hands = 10 digits)
$10/month: one pair of custom-designed handmade shoes per year
Offering two hands is a more comprehensive process of creation: the Kin may offer resources which impact Xol Original on a deeper level, e.g., offering knowledge, skills, services, and experience.
taking the first step:
(Two hands and one foot = 15 digits)
$15/month: one pair of custom-designed, handmade shoes every 9 months.
Taking the First Step means courageously engaging in community further, as one who truly listens.
Becoming a “Twenty":
(Two hands and two feet = 20 digits)
$20/month: one pair of custom-designed, handmade shoes every 6 months.
A “Twenty” is a living example, becoming committed to the vision. It is clear that everything the Kin undertakes is through the lens of sacred ecology and indigenous heart, wisdom, and courage. The commitment is one of nobility and integrity.
Note: This system is based on the Mayan view that each person is a “Twenty” -- that is, a human being with twenty digits of ten fingers and ten toes. The Mayan sacred calendar or Chol Q’ij calendar (as it is called in K’iche Maya, but also called the Tzolk’in calendar in Yucatec Maya), is based on a cycle of twenty days and thirteen energies. One full cycle of the Chol Q’ij is 20 days x 13 energies = 260 days. 260 days is about nine months, and correlates with the gestation period in humans and the growth cycle of maize, as well as the movements of the zenith Sun. The Mayan number system is also based on 20.
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On behalf of Xol Original and the vitality of indigenous traditions everywhere, we thank you and offer you a warm welcome.
Grow Xol Original
Your gift goes directly toward indigenous artists, creating new collaborations, to buy much needed equipment, support our operations, and towards the indigenous communities with whom we work in Guatemala, Chiapas, and Taiwan.
We deeply appreciate your support!
Xol Original Founder
I lived the great privilege of growing up in a world very different than the world we live in today; a truly ancient world, where everything had a name and a purpose, and if we listened, we could come to know what those were.
Raised by my grandfather, grandmother, and my community, in a traditional lifestyle from a very young age; I remain forever grateful. In that world, everything was about relationship and knowledge. How to speak to an elder, what mountains are appropriate to hunt for our food, and how to dress, walk, and speak, with dignity and honor. I was shown how our hands are equally as important as our head and heart, for they give us a way to feel, connect, and work with our world.
I used to chop wood every morning so we may have heat, and my grandmother would tend to the land, filled with herbs, beans, and strawberries. Every planter we had was an inside out car tire, hand cut and painted into a beautiful pattern. My grandfather would do stonework and make chokecherry wine from our trees for the summer. Chile, stories, jokes and jerky were what we would earn. Life wasn’t easy, but it was meaningful.
When I started Xol Original, I wanted to make something special out of what would otherwise harm our earth, and shift it into what can help save it. Changing the way we live so we can together create a powerful solution to a global epidemic, by teaching a better lifestyle, with strong emphasis on style.