Sisa vine (Arrabideae spp.(?)) with leaves. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology
All artisans from native communities in the Peruvian Amazon use a wide variety of roots, fruit, leaves and bark to dye the fiber of chambira palm trees to weave and sell beautiful handicrafts. These materials come from herb, shrubs, and vines planted in backyard gardens and from trees that grow naturally on river banks, fallow fields and/or old forests. Artisans can usually access enough dye plants from season to season to create the full range of colors, but two successive years of strong rainy seasons flooded most of Brillo Nuevo and other villages close to the river level throughout the northern Peruvian Amazon. These inundations killed many dye plants or damaged them so much that they may take up to five years to recover.
Manuel Mibeco curaca. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology
On June 20, CACE helped the artisans of Brillo Nuevo to create a dye plant garden in higher ground so future floods would not prevent artisans from collecting an adequate supply of dye plants to keep weaving their handicrafts. The Brillo Nuevo curaca (traditional leader) Manuel Mibeco kindly allowed the village’s artisans to convert a small plot growing yuca (also known as manioc and cassava) to this garden that would be available to all of them in hard times.
The process began by harvesting (and peeling) the roots of maturing yuca plants. The artisans then laid out lines to plant seeds, seedlings and rhizomes of key dye plants vulnerable to flooding including guisador (Curcuma longa), sisa/cudi (Arrabidaea spp. ?), jangua, and achiote (Bixa orellana).
Kori Vasquez carrying yuca roots. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology
Below are some other photos of preparing the dye plant garden and dying chambira fiber.
"While concepts like punctuality, mutual respect, no put downs of self or others, and listening when someone else is speaking may seem like obvious guidelines to form a positive community, a commitment to actually practice and hold each other accountable to observe these agreements is profound in a culture where showing up late, malicious gossip, and interrupting a speaker are painfully common."
"Artisan facilitators should of course share what they know, but beginning and experienced artisans all benefit by remaining humble, enthusiastic about learning, and committed to encourage and affirm their fellow artisans. So many artisans said that the thing they most wanted to bring back to their communities was this spirit of working in a mutually supportive environment."
"Both men and women wore garb made with bleached llanchama tree bark painted with graphic figures from Bora clans. Several wore headdresses made with the feathers from macaws and parrots. They discussed the importance of nature and craft-making in their culture and then launched into a lively dance where the men chanted and pounded sticks into the ground to the rhythm of moving around in a circle. Visitors joined the undulating lines to share the vibrant energy."