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).
The patterns (‘kené’) painted onto their telas are said to represent the geometric patterns seen whilst working with the hallucinogenic plant 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 Shipibo have utilised plant and earth based materials to produce natural pigments for generations. While the use of black and brown pigments is still relatively common, other pigments are used less frequently and have in many cases been replaced by acrylic paints. Supporting the maintenance and use of these practices provides an ongoing connection to traditional plant knowledge.
Red: Achiote 'Máxe’ seeds are a red color and utilised as a medicine, body adornment and increasingly rarely to add the bright red colour to textiles. You can see its use as a body adornment in classic Amazonian photos of indigenous people.
Black: Baro ‘Máno’ is a riverine clay to paint and dye fabrics. It is gathered from certain spots along the river and added with water to form a grey paste. Once painted onto the fabric it is left to dry, then the excess clay is washed off to leave the fabric black. This may be repeated a number of times to give dark black lines.
Size: 79 x 78cm
Lines of Life is a special report we produced all about traditional Shipibo-Konibo ‘Chitonti’ textiles. Please allow us to take you on a journey deep into the Peruvian Amazon with us to feel and learn.