Photography: Tui Anandi (Xapiri Ground)

The Shipibo-Konibo people belong to the Pano linguistic family and are traditionally located along the Ucayali river and its tributaries in the Peruvian Amazon. Their origin lies in a series of cultural fusions between three previously distinct groups: Shipibos, Konibos and Shetebos. According to Jacques Tournon (2002), the largest rebellion that expelled the missionaries from the area occurred in 1766 and was driven by the union of the previous rivals; Shipibo, Konibo and Shetebos peoples. This rebellion may have brought these peoples closer together. Today, they live together in harmony, and share mixed marriages and community rituals.

The names Shipibo and Konibo are related to the terms "monkey and fish" in their native language. According to oral tradition, the Shipibo-Konibo received this name because in the past they used to paint their forehead, chin and mouth with a natural black dye, which gave them the appearance of a monkey called "Shipi". Currently, the Shipibo-Konibo have accepted this name without considering it pejorative (Morin, 1998a).

Currently, the population is estimated at 32,964 inhabitants, making them one of the most numerous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon. They are also known for being a nomadic people that inhabit different areas of Peru, such as Madre de Dios, Loreto, Huánuco and the capital of Peru (Lima), in the community of Cantagallo, located on the banks of the Rímac river. The Shipibo-Konibo people traditionally practice slash-and-burn agriculture and subsist mainly by harvesting plantains, sweet cassava, potatoes, and corn, which they supplement with food obtained from the forest and river, such as game and fish.

In the Shipibo-Konibo cosmovision, there are four spaces that allow us to understand the origin of their culture: The world of the water - Jene nete; our world - Non Nete; Yellow world - Pashin Nete; and the marvelous world where the sun is - Jakon nete. Each of these spaces house different animated beings, which in turn interact with each other in different ways. According to the beliefs of the Shipibo-Konibo people, the meraya or healer has the ability to visit these four worlds and contact the beings that inhabit them by ingesting ayahuasca. They also have the ability to transform themselves into other beings, such as the tiger, the boa or the puma (Aidesep et al., 2000).

In the universe of the Shipibo-Konibo people, one of the most significant codes is the design system. The production of ceramics and textiles with geometric figures and the originality of their strokes, known as Kené, have given rise to authentic creations, which manifest their relationship with plants, animals and animate beings. This system of designs is accessible through their own means of acquiring knowledge of the Amazonian world, that is, through the visions produced by the inspiration induced by various plants, including ayahuasca (Belaunde, 2008). These visions become a source of information about their origin and the link with their territory, thus reaffirming their knowledge and identity as a people.

Like other Indigenous populations in the Amazon basin, the Shipibo-Konibo are threatened by strong pressure from external factors such as oil production, logging, palm oil cultivation, deforestation, commercial overfishing and drug trafficking. Global climate change has caused droughts followed by floods, which also threaten the livelihoods of the Shipibo-Konibo people.

OUR WORK WITH THE COMMUNITY

The Xapiri Ground team has been working with the Shipibo-Konibo people since 2017, inspired by their art and sharing various experiences with different families from communities in the Ucayali and Cantagallo.

In early March 2017, we visited the community of Paoyhan, known for its rich cultural tradition and being one of the bastions of the "chitonti", the traditional textiles made from homespun native cotton. This collaboration was carried out in conjunction with the NGO Alianza Arkana, based in the city of Pucallpa. Over the years we have developed projects that support the revitalization of traditional textiles and ceramics, offering fair prices. The objective is to give value and appreciation to their art, which is cultivated from generation to generation, and contribute to its continuity, as it is currently disappearing.

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The Shipibo-Konibo are recognized worldwide for their rich artistic tradition, which has also been a source of inspiration for contemporary Peruvian art. Their kené designs, characterized by geometric figures and original strokes, were declared cultural heritage of the nation in 2008.

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El Dueño del Huayruro

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