Hailing all the way from Columbia, Ernesto is joined by his son Sebastian and daughter Manuela, to form their jewellery studio - Oro Negro. Ernesto moved to Aotearoa in 1999 and quickly drew comparisons between his Columbian indigenous tribe - Musica - and the Māori culture. With a desire to create contemporary jewellery as in his homeland, he attended Tai Poutini Polytechnic in Greymouth to learn the craft of stone carving, before refining his talents at Elam School of Fine Arts.
As a descendant of the now-extinct Muisca tribe in central Colombia, Ernesto proudly identifies himself as an indigenous person. Ernesto firmly believes that indigenous peoples worldwide share a deep connection, transcending borders and histories. His journey of discovery into Aotearoa culture and the significance of pounamu, or greenstone, has been particularly enlightening, providing him with a profound understanding of his own roots and heritage. It has also become a platform for him to share his cultural experiences with the world, promoting unity and appreciation for indigenous values and principles, such as Te Ao Māori and Tikanga Māori. Aligned with Ngāi Tahu's mission to differentiate pounamu from other types of jade, Ernesto wholeheartedly embraces this responsibility. He feels a strong sense of duty to safeguard pounamu as an essential part of Ngāi Tahu's heritage, while also advocating for public awareness and respect towards the significance of pounamu and the kaitiakitanga, or guardianship, demonstrated by Ngāi Tahu over this precious stone.