The intricate pattern embroidered in this cloth piece is a song-pattern, and depending on its size, can take an entire month to complete. Song patterns are geometrically fractal designs, and this is especially evident when one looks closely at the complexity of the stitching patterns…tiny stitches that make up the background patterns were explained by the late Herlinda Augustin, a revered Shipibo shaman and weaver, to be representative of the 'cosmic oneness… To the Shipibo, this oneness very literally connects all things in the universe. Over the top of the stitch 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. Source: Woven Songs Of The Amazon (Icaros and Weavings of The Shipibo Shamans) by Barrett H. Martin
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Shipibo-Conibo, Village of San Francisco, Amazon, Peru
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.
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