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Ethnic Pride Marketing works with small artisan's families in Colombia's very remote villages to keep their traditions alive while being paid a fair wage for their work. One of those artisans is Luis Eduardo whose family has worked with tagua (pronounced: ta qwa or tah gwa) for generations.
The tagua nut comes from a palm like tree which grows to a height of 20 to 30 feet in several tropical regions of South America. The nut or seed can range in size from a cherry to a grapefruit and average about the size of a walnut.
When ripe, the nuts fall to the ground and are gathered and dried four to eight weeks after which they become extremely hard. The ivory nut is a close grain and very hard. The cellular structure and grain is similar to that of elephant ivory, but is more dense and resilient. Colombia produces the largest quanities of tagua nuts and plantations have been planted to produce a viable product. The nut resembles the finest ivory in texture and color and is slightly softer than mammal ivory. There are several names for this vegetable ivory nut, but the most common is the "tagua nut". The Indians of Colombia along the Magdalena River gave the name "tagua" and in the coastal area it's called "Anta". The Botanical name is: Phytelephas Macrocarpa Palmae.
Its similarity to elephant ivory has been known by craftsman for years and is frequently passed as elephant ivory on objects fashioned from it and can be very deceptive. Being so much like mammal ivory, pieces carved from it are sold at the same price as elephant ivory and for some carvings much more.
Luis Eduardo is the last member of his family interested in working with tagua. He only works in natural colors and his specialities are sculptures and fine jewelry.
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