Photography: Davis Torres, Tui Anandi, Mike van Kruchten (Xapiri Ground)

The Matsigenka people live mainly in the departments of Cusco and Madre de Dios. Their language belongs to the Arawak linguistic family, one of the most widespread in South and Central America. In their language, Matsigenka means "people or person", and is the self-designation of the Arawak people. According to the latest census data, the population of communities self-identified as Matsigenka in Cusco, Madre de Dios, Ayacucho and Ucayali was 11,238 people (INEI,2017a). In Madre de Dios, the Matsigenka thrive in a region of amazing biodiversity, being located in protected areas such as the Manu Biosphere Reserve and Manu National Park and its surroundings.

Regarding the pre-Columbian history of the Matsigenka, it is thought that they had contact with the Andean people of Tahuantinsuyo, with whom they exchanged metal objects, as well as coca, monkeys, feathers, medicinal plants, among others. Likewise, in the Arawak oral tradition there are references to the Incas and borrowings from the Quechuas (Fabian, 2020).

It is important to note that, on the Cusco side, the Pongo de Mainique divides the Urubamba basin into upper and lower Urubamba, where there are Matsigenka communities in different degrees of interaction with the surrounding society. In the lower Urubamba, the communities settle along the banks of its tributaries, with the river routes being the first connecting spaces. There are also protected natural areas, the Camisea gas plant and some colonist communities (Andean migrants), who are occupying more and more land as part of the colonisation process in the Amazon.


The Xapiri Ground team has been working closely with the community of Shipetiari since 2019, which is located on the left bank of the Alto Madre de Dios river, in the Manu province, bordering the Manu National Park. The community occupies a territory of 28,853 hectares and is made up of 29 families that are dedicated to various activities such as handicrafts and tourism.

The name "Shipetiari" means "where there are stones," referring to the extensive rocky beaches found along the Pinquen-Shipetiari river. The objective of their life plan is to live in harmony in the community and with the forest, for which they carry out traditional activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering of wild fruits, as well as sustainable activities oriented to the conservation of the forest, such as experiential tourism, handicrafts, carbon footprint projects and banana agriculture.

Since 2018, we have been building collaborative relationships with the community in order to develop a fair trade link through traditional arts. At the end of 2019, we held an exhibition called Kametiri at Qorikancha that featured the Matsigenka culture through their art, featuring the Shipetiari community. The exhibition showed photographs and art installations in how the Matsigenka use materials built from natural products in their daily lives.

To carry out our joint work with the Matsigenkas, we have partnered with SéPerú, an organization that contributes to the development and strengthening of the relationship between humans and the ecosystem.

Here, we share information about the experience of the collaboration with Shipetiari in relation to community life, artistic processes, the care of their territory and the validity of the Matsigenka culture and identity.


Within the Matsigenka culture, their art is manifested through a variety of artifacts and clothing that are created using knowledge and practices passed down from generation to generation.

natural products
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