A woman from the Amazon explains the meaning of their beautiful design to Paul Chaiken.
On the Tuesday of May 26, 2019 the WGC group visited members of the Shipibo tribe who had emigrated from the Amazon region to Lima. For a few years Sister Katty Huanuco, the Director of the Incarnate Word Sisters Oficina de Justicia, Paz y Tierra has encouraged the community. When we arrived, Sister Katty sat us down on plastic lawn chairs arranged in a circle. We then went around the circle introducing ourselves. About thirty women, men, and children welcomed us.
As we were talking, we learned that their main source of income was selling their ancestral crafts on the streets of Lima. Their designs were passed on from generation to generation with each person having their own unique designs within the general style.
Even though they have moved to Lima, they have retained their native language, the Shipibo, and they have kept practicing their own herbal medicine on minor illnesses. A big reason why they moved to Lima is that there are no universities in the Amazon; they are restricted to primary and secondary school.
Most of their crafts were fabrics with intricate, maze-like designs stitched on. Other times the tapestries had paintings on them that depicted the daily life in their culture like carrying water back to the village or smoking San Pedro cactus to see across space and time.
Sister Martha Ann bought a cloth with intricate designs that seemed to not mean much. But after talking to the woman that made the cloth, it depicted a birds eye view of a village (in the circle) surrounded by walkways, rivers, and forests (outside of the circle).
[According to the Shamanic Education Project The Shipibo people “are a shamanically based people, deeply influenced by the power of the plants, animals and natural elements. A unique aspect of the Shipibo culture is their woven song tradition. The Shipibo record their icaros or healing songs in elaborate geometrical designs that function like a musical score and correlate and interact with the natural world. They see the patterns in the natural world and are able to reproduce them for protection, healing, abundance, harmony and a variety of other purposes.”]
After buying some of their beautiful fabrics, beads, and crafts, Sr. Katty led us praying together and took group pictures. We left the Shipibo people amicably, but there were still mysteries in how they lived.
Contributed by Paul B. Chaiken
Women’s Global Connection with the assistance of Sister Katty is learning more of the 250 Shipibo families who are seeking education for their children in Lima, yet they want to preserve their language and culture. Perhaps we can form a partnership with them.
Protecting the Amazon region and respecting the people of the Amazon is important. The rain forest is the “lungs” of our planet. It holds thousands of species. Sister Katty is active in religious organizations trying to protect the Amazon. Powerful corporations have been taking advantage of the native peoples of the Amazon. With global climate change the Shipibo people along the Ucayali River have experienced floods and droughts. Also there has been deforestation.
“Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity.” UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 2
Shipibo women are probably best known for their pottery decorated with maze like patterns. Some of these are in the Smithsonian collections.
One of our travelers, Evelyn Garcia, happily displays a blouse she got from them.
Another of the travelers, Meghan Mueller, enjoyed her Shipibo dress on her first day in Cuzco.