This is a traditional Shipibo tela known as 'çhitonti' made with natural un-dyed cotton (grown and weaved themselves). The embroidery process can last up to three months. Woven by Pekon Rabi and then embroidered by her daughter in the traditional and ancestral 'xao kené' designs. Pekon Rabi describes the 'xao kené' design as symbolising the Shipibo nomadic life of the past with the blue lines representing the rivers which the Shipibo followed.
The Shipibo are distinguished by their extensive knowledge of medicinal plants and their beautiful craftwork traditions in ceramics and textiles. Their textiles, which are also known as ‘telas’ are a central pillar of their culture and have been recognised by the Peruvian State as ‘Patrimonio Cultural de la Nación’ (National Cultural Heritage).
Size: 140cm (55") x 69cm (27.5").
The patterns woven into their telas are said to represent the geometric structures seen whilst working with Ayahuasca. The patterns are an ongoing dialogue or communion with the spiritual world and powers of the rainforest. Shipibo art interprets these paradigms and visions into a physical form. The ethnologist Angelika Gebhart-Sayer, calls this: “Visual Music”.
It is important to understand that these designs not only serve the purpose of ornamentation and decoration, they represent an entire communication system with plant spirits. As well as coming from the imagination of the individual, each piece is based on the collective consciousness of the whole Shipibo tribe.
The telas are all sourced from a community called Paoyan, which is located around four hours by fast boat downriver from Pucallpa, the capital of the region of Ucayali, Peru. Paoyan with a population of approximately 800 people has a rich cultural tradition. Nearly all the women there make textiles as their sale is an important source of income for the families. Additionally, there are at least eight older women who still weave the cotton fabric in the traditional way. This is a very time consuming and laborious process, involving growing the cotton, spinning it, then using a very basic loom to create tightly woven fabrics.
To learn more about the art of 'çhitonti' please see our special report 'Lines of Life' here.