“Shipibo designs have their origin in the non-manifest and ineffable world in the spirit of the Rainforest and all who live there” – Howard G. Charing
The Shipibo are one of the largest ethnic groups in the Peruvian Amazon. These ethnic groups each have their own languages, traditions and culture. The Shipibo, who currently number about 30,000,They are spread out in communities through the Pucallpa/Ucayali river region.
They are highly regarded in the Amazon as being masters of Ayahuasca, and many aspiring healers from the region study with the Shipibo to learn their language, chants, and plant medicine knowledge.
Shipibo artwork is a central pillar of their culture and traditions, and contains characteristic designs.
The patterns woven into the telas, or painted on ceramics, 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.
Every piece of Shipibo art that we are selling is unique, even the very small pieces, and they cannot be commercially or mass produced. Every design, pattern and combination has its own significance.
The Shipibo designs are traditionally carried out on natural un-dyed cotton (which they sometimes grow and weave themselves) or on cotton dyed in mahogany bark (usually three or four times), which gives the distinctive brown colour. They paint either using a pointed piece of chonta (bamboo) or an iron nail with the juice of the crushed Huito (Genipa americana), berry fruits which turns into a blue-brown-black dye once exposed to air.
The embroidery process can last up to three months; medium-sized telas typically take one month to complete.
All the artesanias are created by women - this knowledge is passed on from mothers and grandmothers to the younger generations. As Shipibo culture becomes more affected by the globalized world and the need for money, this tradition is at risk of being lost. Few young Shipibo girls are learning this craft, as their interests both culturally and economically are seemingly better satisfied elsewhere.
Our work, especially with young people, aims to strengthen the cultural identity of the Shipibo people whilst helping equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to navigate the Western world.