February 9, 2011

Shipibo Tribe Survives & Creates Beautiful Art.

Yoanna of the Shipibo Tribe
In an earlier blog, we announced that Lonely Planet and CNN had both named Iquitos as one of the Top Ten cities to visit in 2011.  If you have the chance to visit this unique, one-of-a-kind, remote city, you may be interested in the Indian tribes of the region.  Sadly, most tribes you encounter near Iquitos are very westernized, demonstrating their traditional dress and customs for tourist groups and during festivals and holidays.  

The Shipibo Indian tribe clings to their traditions.  They are known for their intricate designs on their pottery and their bright clothing.  A small number of Shipibo people live in Iquitos where they make and sell their uniquely patterned art and craft.  

Their beautiful textiles are perfect as wall hangings, table cloths or bedcovers, these hand embroidered and painted Shipibo tribe fabrics are produced in the central Peruvian Amazon. The designs on each cloth are said to be unique and never repeated. The Shipibo obtain these designs from the spirit world, usually during an ayahuasca session, where the pattern is produced inside the head by vibrations, often associated with specific spirit songs being sung by the participant. The designs are brought back from ayahuasca sessions into daily life, being repeated in body paint, on ceramics and even houses to help invoke harmony and health.

"This seller is wonderful!! Great
communication, and the tapestry
is a work of art priced very reasonably."
The Shipibo are well known for their distinctive pottery and textiles. In their culture the designs they use are traditionally copied from the skin of the Giant Anaconda or the heavens, such as the Southern Cross. Many other designs were given to them by their culture hero Incan ancestors. Their cotton cloth is hand painted in traditional designs. The cloth is worn as a wrap around loin cloth by the women of the tribe as well as being used for other functions. 

The Shipibo Indians reside at the southwestern edge of the vast Amazon Basin in Peru. Shipibo Indians are River Indians living along the banks and tributaries of the Amazon River. The Shipibo people are primarily artisans, hunters, and fishermen and some practice slash-and-burn agriculture. Primary tools are machetes and spears. Virtually none of the villages have electricity. 

The Shipibo-Conibo consist of around 35,000 people living in three to four hundred villages located north and south of the town of Pucallpa on the Ucayali River, which connects Cuzco to the Brazilian Amazon. All of the villages use barter for trade, but their proximity to the burgeoning town of Pucallpa makes it inevitable that the people will soon be drawn into modern trade and exploitation.

They speak a language of the Panoan family, though some of them are starting to learn Spanish. Despite 300 years of sporadic contact with white or mestizo civilization, and massive conversion to Christianity in the 1950’s and 60’s the Shipibo-Conibos maintain a strong identity and retain their ancient ways. 


(Some resource material is from the Peruvian Amazon Indian Institute)

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