The Cofán or A’i people, are an indigenous people native to the Napo Province in northeast Ecuador and southern Colombia, living between the Guamués River (a tributary of the Putumayo River) and the Aguarico River (a tributary of the Napo River). Their population is now only 2,100 people according to a 2010 survey, down from approximately 15,000 in the mid-16th century; when the Spanish diminished their ancient civilization leaving few archeological remains. They speak the Cofán language or A’ingae, a language of the Chibchan family.

The ancestral land, community health and social cohesion of Cofan communities in Ecuador have been severely damaged by several decades of oil drilling. However, reorganization, campaigning for land rights, and direct action against encroaching oil installations have provided minimal stability. Major settlements include Sinangué, Dovuno, Dureno and Zábalo, the latter of which has retained a much more extensive land base. Indigenous political representation is through the Federación Indigena de la Nacionalidad Cofán del Ecuador (FEINCE), translated in English as the Federation of the Indigenous Nation of the Cofan of Ecuador.

In March 2010, designer Violeta Villacorta met Emergildo Criollo, (then the President) of the Cofán Community, when he was visiting Los Angeles. He is a talented artisan whose craftsmanship has been passed down through generations. They spoke of their mutual interest to promote arts and crafts as a means to create a sustainable economy for indigenous communities; as for most it is their main source of income. Upon his invitation, Violeta traveled to their community for a preliminary visit for a week, thus beginning her work with Cofán artisans from Asociación Sukû.

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