Interview with Tacoma Artist, Mari Shibuya

13 October 2021   |   Fairtrade America

Fairtrade farmers live in over 70 countries around the world. With thousands of miles between us, it is easy to forget just how connected we are. That connection comes through food and trade. This month, we are working to close that gap by bringing the stories of Fairtrade farmers to stores in the US. 

That’s why we co-created a mural with Mari Shibuya, a Seattle-based artist, at Central Co-op in Tacoma, Washington. We caught up with Mari to learn more about her experience with this project.

Why did you decide to partner with Fairtrade on the Choose Fairtrade. Choose the world you want. Campaign?

I am thrilled to partner with Fairtrade for this campaign because of the deep importance of uplifting farmers for the future of our planet. Small scale, ecologically-conscious agriculture is an avenue to mitigate climate catastrophe. Being in the right relationship as a collective with how we compensate the folx doing this work is imperative. It is an honor to lend my skill as an artist and visual storyteller to amplify the work that Fairtrade is doing globally and highlight the people that our decisions as a consumer are directly impacting.

Mari painting the base of her Tacoma mural from a lift

How does this mural connect to your personal values?

This mural deeply connects to a personal value I have of valuing our interdependence. Our current globalized food system can create amnesia around what really goes into sustaining our lives and how vital relationships and community are. To get to depict the face of the woman harvesting the cocoa that goes into the chocolate bar you grab out of the grocery aisle is a step in re-imagining the village of humanity we truly are. We need one another, now more than ever. We need to ensure that those doing the direct work of tending to the earth and nourishing the world are treated with respect & equitably compensated for their work. Period. It is only through valuing and empathizing with one another that we can truly move towards a liberated world.

How do you personally connect with Central Co-op?

The Central Co-op has had a soft spot in my heart for years. In Seattle, I have frequented the co-op for years and at times, felt a sense of community with the staff there. Though some things have changed over the years, I deeply respect the work that the co-op does to uplift local farmers and small businesses. I am so excited to get to know the Tacoma Central Co-op community!

You were tasked with the assignment of illustrating how Fairtrade relates to gender equality. How did that resonate with you?

In my work as a facilitator, youth empowerment, specifically the empowerment of young womxn, is central to my heart. The reason for this is that fostering leadership and representation of womxn in leadership roles is supremely important for cultivating a more empathetic, corporative and compassionate world. One of the organizations I work for, Young Women Empowered (Y-WE), was founded on the belief that our future depends on the leadership of womxn. The womxn holding down these farming communities are flexing mad amounts of leadership and power. I have so much respect in my heart for these womxn – these matriarchs – and a deep belief that by continuing to target focus on uplifting these womxn, there is an assurance that these benefits will be experienced by the greater community and structures put in place to sustain and compound the benefits for future generations.

See the Tacoma mural

Hear more about Carmen, the cocoa farmer featured in Mari's work, and see the finished mural!

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