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The Shipibo are one of 14 indigenous tribes living in the Amazon basin in Peru and at present consist of around 35,000 people living in over 300 villages in the Pucallpa area situated mainly along the Rio Ucayali. They believe that the universe was sung into being by a giant anaconda, and as she sang, the patterns of her skin covered the universe. The intricate weavings created for centuries by the Shipibo are an ornate representation of the serpent's skin and, at the same time, are the actual, written music for the songs (icaros). Traditionally, the knowledge of the weaving patterns and songs has been passed down through the women, but due to the recent presence of western influences on the younger generations of women, these traditions are rapidly being lost.
The textile you see here is from the family of the late Herlinda Augustine and other women of the village of San Francisco. Herlinda Fernandez Augustine was one of a few Shipibo-Conibo indigenous woman healers – onaya or auahuasca shaman, whose life work is a unique repertoire of ancient songs (called icaros) which she uses to affect healing of her people and change in the world around her. Her songs speak of the power of plants and the importance of harmony between Man and Nature. She was featured in the award winning documentary film by Anna Stevens and her icaros are featured in a CD by the same name. Herlinda is survived by her husband Enrique, mother Manuela, daughter Magdalena and son Henry.
The intricate pattern embroidered on this cloth is a song-pattern.Song patterns are geometrically fractal designs...tiny stitches...make up the background patterns were explained...to be representative of the cosmic oneness....To the Shipibo, this oneness very literally connects all things in the universe. Over the top...is the main song line, and these patterns are recognized holistically by the shaman as the main identifying characteristic of the corresponding icaro. When I observed the shamans singing a cloth, they would trace their index finger along this main song line pattern, the melody rising or descending in general accordance with the rise and fall of the line...Along the main song line itself and at various points of intersection along its path, can be seen the beautiful geometric designs called the floras...These flowers represent turning points where the song may take a new direction, such as a new verse or chorus. Source: Woven Songs Of The Amazon (Icaros and Weavings of The Shipibo Shamans) by Barrett H. Martin.
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