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The Shipibo

The Shipibo

The Shipibo are an indigenous people who live along the Ucayali River in the Amazon rainforest in Peru. The Shipibo live in the 21st century while keeping one foot in the past, spanning millennia in the Amazonian rainforest. Many of their traditions are still practiced, such as ayahuasca and shamanism. Shamanistic songs have inspired artistic tradition and decorative designs found in their clothing, pottery, tools and textiles.


Contact with western sources – including the government of Peru – has been sporadic over the past three centuries. The Shipibo are noted for a rich and complex cosmology, which is tied directly to the art and artifacts they produce. 


The Shipibo are acutely aware of climate change as they are directly affected due to river water levels, availability of natural crops and deforestation. The men of the communities of Sapasoa and Patria Nueva are being trained by the Rainforest Foundation to use drones to monitor levels of deforestation throughout the Amazon Region. 


The Shipibo used to have a diet of fish, yuca and fruits. Recently, however, the situation has deteriorated because of global weather changes and now it is mostly just yuca and fish. Since there has been drought followed by flooding, most of the mature fruit trees have died, and some of the banana trees and plantains are struggling. Global increases in energy and food prices have risen due to deforestation and erosion along the Ucayali River. The basic needs of the people are more important now than ever, affecting their long-term planning abilities. There is now a sense that hunger may not be that far off for those in the farther reaches of the Shipibo nation.


All of the communities that TMAC works with are Spanish speaking, the indigenous languages are slowly dying out. As is their traditional clothing. In Peru there is a stigma associated with indigenous people and therefore parents don’t want their children wearing traditional dress – this means that one of the few ways of retaining heritage is through the artesanias made by the women. 


Many of the master craftswomen we work with are single mothers with multiple children, living in these remote communities and dependent on the sale of their embroidery and painting to be able to put food on the table and get their kids to school.  


The women of the Shipibo work with textiles decorated with maze-like red and black geometric patterns. While these were traditionally made for use in the home, an expanding tourist market has provided many households with extra income through the sale of pots and other craft items.


The range of one of a kind table cloths made by the women of the Shipibo are made using rough cotton material and painted by hand using a natural ink found in the jungle. The designs are inspired from their experiences while taking Ayahuasca. A tradition that has been deeply rooted in their culture for centuries. 


“It is our mission to empower indigenous women through creating fair economic opportunities”

 

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