FIERCE FRIDAY

FIERCE FRIDAY: SHIPIBO

Things have gone quiet on the Folk Ark corral while I've been travelling this week, but it would be a poor start to the weekend indeed without a strong look to kick Friday into gear. Today it's a magnificent Shipibo woman with her face adorned by characteristic Shipibo patterns, a septum ring with metal disc and multi-stranded choker beads. 

The Shipibo are indigenous to areas along Perú's Ucayali River and through gradual intermingling with another indigenous group, the Conibo, are now properly known as the Shipibo-Conibo people. Some of their more renowned traditions include ayahuasca shamanism and the creation — by women — of beadwork, textiles and especially pottery decorated with graphic, labyrinthine patterns in white, red and black. Textile patterns can have much wider colour variation.

Young Shipibo girls are initiated into the creation of the patterns by their female relatives, who squeeze drops of juice from the berries of cyperus articulatus (piri piri) into the child's eyes so that she will be able to envision the designs. Various possible interpretations of the designs include their being a mapping of Shipibo cosmology; stylisations the skin of the anaconda, an animal sacred to them; representations of a fundamental energy field revealed during ayahuasca ceremonies; or a mapping of the Amazon River system. In any case it seems safe to say that the patterns are strongly linked with Shipibo beliefs on the cosmos, the importance of balance to human and environmental health, and the visions revealed to them through ayahuasca ceremonies. 

This photograph was taken in 1962 by Thomas Hoepker, a photojournalist at that time working for Münchner Illustrierte und Kristall