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Traditional design Traditional design is to get additional protection from plagiarism under new strategy.

Culture Ministry initiative defends indigenous designs against plagiarism

Designers will have an opportunity to showcase their work at an event in November

The Ministry of Culture announced an initiative on Monday to step up its protection of indigenous artisans from plagiarism.

Called the Original, the initiative’s first event will provide a forum for around 3,000 artisans and national and international businesses to exhibit and potentially commercialize their work and traditional designs by forming business relationships.

A fashion show runway will allow indigenous models to display creations by master artisans.

The event, scheduled for November 18-21 at the Los Pinos Cultural Center in Mexico City, will also feature conferences and debates on topics including cultural appropriation, collective rights and preservation of cultural heritage. Commercial spaces will remain at the center until December 12.

International fashion houses have a controversial history in Mexico. The federal government and other authorities have accused them of plagiarizing indigenous designs and “improper cultural appropriation” in recent years. Among the implicated designers are Zara, Anthropologie, Patowl, Zimmerman, Isabel Marant, Carolina Herrera, Mango and Pippa Holt.

Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto Guerrero, who announced the initiative, said it was important for there to be direct contact between artisans and businesses. “You can speak to the world head-on … as creators from Mexico or from their communities; or as designers to those creators … not with romanticism, not with paternalism. But with respect, with ethics and with the opportunity for mutual creation,” she said.

Artisan Teresa Lino said the initiative helps her feel proud of her indigenous identity. “It is a great opportunity to publicize the work we do … now I am proud; I am an indigenous woman who fights to maintain my cultural identity and I am not ashamed,” she said.

Artisan Ignacio Netzahualcóyotl considered the announcement to be of historic importance. “Textiles, crafts, everything from native peoples is the art that we learned as children, from our ancestors. Today it is a truly unique, historical event, where the native peoples are embraced, where we no longer feel less,” he said.

Cultural promotor Luz Valdez said she was optimistic the initiative would change the standing of artisans. “This project has been like a ray of light for everyone. I always said, one day we’re all going to go to the spaces that we were told we couldn’t, and I think this is the beginning of that,” she said.

The Culture Ministry also announced that it would propose a legal instrument to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to afford better protection for designs of indigenous communities.

Mexico News Daily

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