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Who are We? 🤔




We are women, we are mothers, we are designers we are immigrant Colombianas, basically we're a whole lot! Read to find out more about us, traditional Okamas and how OLTEM was born.


Tatiana wearing one of our first Okamas to be introduced in OLTEM
Tatiana wearing one of the first Okamas to be introduced to OLTEM

OLTEM began with an idea whilst I was pregnant with my second babe- wait- who is me you ask? I'm Tatiana, the owner and co-founder of OLTEM LLC. Laura, my cousin and I were sitting down sipping some cafecito and thinking of the future one sunny afternoon in my tiny Brooklyn apartment.

Thinking wtf I was going to do since I was pregnant and my eldest wasn't even potty trained yet and well, I still needed money.

Laura, being an Environmental Administrator in Colombia, she had to travel for her job within the country many times and in one of her travels she met an indigenous artisan family whom made the most beautiful necklaces we had ever seen. It was then, that we decided to learn more about this beautiful jewelry practice, expand visibility for these pieces and help the family selling their beautiful hand made necklaces called Okamas.

With only $200 in our pockets, we opened our online store through Etsy and called it OLT which later became OLTEM LLC.


Then, Otilia and Traditional Okamas


Laura and Otilia.
Laura and Otilia

While Laura was traveling through the more remote areas of Risaralda she met Otilia.

Otilia, was a mother and head of household and she was the first artisan we collaborated with. She was part of the Embera ethnic group of Risaralda, Colombia. She taught us that Okamas are an ancestral tradition from her indigenous community, passed down from generation to generation, usually from grandmother to mother to daughter and so on.


First Okama I ever owned
First Okama I ever owned

We were mesmerized with the beauty and intricacy of the design and it's meaning, and I wanted to own one, so Laura gifted me my first ever Okama. Which was very special since Otilia refused to make an Okama in colors like black and white, but she did for Laura. 🥹


Traditional Okamas


The word Okama means path on the neck, in the Ebera Bedea Language spoken by the Embera Indigenous ethnic group of Colombia 🇨🇴. It is important also to note that the Embera ethnic group also comes from Panama 🇵🇦.


Embera Girls learned to weave as young as 7 years old, in order to keep the tradition alive. Traditional Okamas have a hierarchy, the larger and intricate the Okama is, the greater the responsibility of the woman who wears it, she is considered a mother or a leader for her community.

The smaller Okamas are traditionally worn by younger women, little girls and/or young ladies whom are likely to have less responsibility in the community. A great example of this are our Okamas Vida or in previous collections, Okamas Florecitas. 🌸


Weaving has always been a way of resisting erasure and colonization, since these designs come from our indigenous ancestors.

This practice has been very successful since today we still wear and use Okamas to uplift our indigenous ancestry. It is also important to say that Okamas not only live in the Embera indigenous communities of Colombia but also all throughout Latin America, Africa and some places in Euro-Asia, although they may be called differently. 🌍💫

At Oltem we still offer 2 Large traditional Okamas which are titled Okama Semillas seen above and Okama Energia Solar - click to find out all their information, or simply head to products > Okamas. 🌱

Due to fears surrounding Cultural Appropriation, we have seen a decrease of interest in our traditional Okamas 😢 Hopefully in the future everyone can enjoy traditional deisgn without this idea. We will be exploring more about this in future blogs.


Alicia and our collaboration


Alicia
Photo fo Alicia

Alicia is an indigneous Embera woman head of household, mother and grandmother, leader and spokesperson for her community, and artisan. We have been collaborating with Alicia for over 4 years now in the making of our traditional Okamas, like Okamas Oro and some Okamas Vida as well.

The tradtional okamas Alicia and her daughters have made are true pieces of art, embodied in the traditional and ancestral woven practices of our indigenous ancestors. Cultivating everlasting love and passion for traditional beaded designs in the younger generations.

Alicia's work is important and we must uplift and honor this tradition, this is our patrimony.

Below are some of the Okamas we have at our online store in collaboration with Alicia.


My cousin Laura (middle), Alicia (right) and her daughters
My cousin Laura (middle), Alicia (right) and her daughters

❤️ Your support is crucial to maintan our collaboration with Alicia for these traditional Okamas, to further support us and our partnership consider purchasing a traditional Okama for yourself or a loved one who would love this design!

Okamas Oro Below are hadnmade in collaboration with Alicia and her daughters. Okamas Oro are available here click to learn more about them✨





Luisa & our collab

Tatiana, Luisa and some of the artisans part of our group in Colombia
Luisa,Tatiana and some of the artisans part of our group in Medellin,Colombia

Luisa is an artisan, mother, head of her household and business woman, we have been collaborating with Luisa for over 5 years now. She leads her own traditional design business in Colombia employing many artisan families and new young weavers whom go to University in the city of Medellin, Colombia.

Our friednship and collaboration has brought Oltem a new era of traditional Okamas, alongside other beautiful accesories inspired by nature. Butterflies and a multitud of flowers are the fruits of our partnership.

This collaboration, has been more than amazing, because due to fears surrounding cultural appropriation, Our traditional Okamas were not very popular anymore and so we integrated contemporary colors and materials into traditional weaving practices and shapes of our traditional Okamas. Bringing forth a new Okama design that is both traditional and contemporary. Together, we have designed Okamas Vida, Okamas Vida in Metallics, Chokers Raiz and many more designs are to come! See below and click for info.


The Result of our collabroation with Luisa and her team of artisans:


All of our contemporary Okamas and necklaces are available at our onlien shop 🤩


Bagabaga Hoops on Purple Emperor
Bagabaga Hoops on Purple Emperor
Bagabaga Collection in Monarch
Bagabaga Collection in Monarch
Orquideas Collection Rojas & Rosa
Orquideas Collection Rojas & Rosa

All of our earring collections are available at our online shop, head to oltem.net to see all.



At Oltem we wish to uplift and honor traditional practices through our hand-made designs.


Oltem's Team in Medellin Colombia
Oltem's Team in Medellin Colombia

Oltem is composed of hard working women, proud of our indigenous background and in love with traditional and contemporary jewelry deisgn.

Supporting Oltem IS supporting all of us and our dream to see this small business grow Larger ! 🤩

Show your love for hand made traditional design !






COMING SOON! 💥

We have a lot more collections in the works and new items including hand bags 💼 🤫coming soon!

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