Awajún-Wampis Adornment

Tattoos and facial paintings made with achiote and huito dye were once very common, usually displayed at large feasts or initiation rituals. Male and female ornaments are made with various jungle materials, using toucan feathers, beetle wings and a variety of seeds (Brown, 1984).

Face painting is different between men and women, as Efrain comments:

"Men use their hands to paint a line on their face, and women use a thin stick to make dots on their face".  Efrain, Achu Community, Cenepa river.

Face paintings have a special meaning for certain members of the Awajún people, as they can symbolise authority, especially given to warriors. The distinctive dye they used to differentiate themselves from others is tipak or huito.

For some members of the Awajún people, these markings represent authority, which is granted to the warriors. The dye they use is to differentiate themselves from others, as Mariluz tells us:

"Mostly at the party they paint themselves (...) only at the masateo, minga, after so much work, they already sit down to drink, but already dressed, changed because they are going to dance. The facial paintings are sometimes attractive, but sometimes when there are strong warriors, when there are warriors the men paint themselves black with huito or Ipak. They use achiote for normal festivities, such as family gatherings.” María Luzmila, San Antonio community, Cenepa river.


The use of feather crowns are still in use in the Awajún-Wampis world. They are sometimes used for celebrations, meetings or presentations to authorities. There are two types of crowns called Tawas. A crown made with a Tsentsak frame, a fibre made from the petiole of the leaves of the ungurahui palm tree (Jessenia bataua), adorned with toucan feathers. It is worn by chiefs or people of prestige, or for visiting social events. The other crown is woven from tamshi or chambira fibres, with large and small toucan feathers attached, some might also carry macaw feathers.

In addition, the crowns incorporate a detail called akitai tuwik, a pendant of green beetle (tuwik) elytra and toucan (Ramphastos cuvieri) feathers with bee waxes. This is placed as a complement to the tawas. These crowns are made by men and take approximately two days to make.


The pecheros or nunkun, are made using huayruro seeds and "virgin's tears or rosaries'.  The pechera is made by both men and women, although it is more commonly used by men.

These pieces have a special meaning in the culture and used to be worn by the wise men of the Awajún-Wampis people or on occasions as a commitment to women. Efraín comments:

"The ancients used these when they had their missions, but not just anyone used it. Now it is used by leaders, teachers, artisans, and mayors". Efrain, Achu Community, Cenepa river.


Traditional Awajún-Wampis dress is made from cotton, cultivated and woven with a handmade loom. Men's clothing was based on a skirt or itipak, fastened at the waist by a belt. Women wore a one-piece dress, known as a "buchák or taráchi", which was tied over one shoulder with a rope, which was also fastened at the waist with a belt (Brown, 1984).

Another detail of the women's dresses is the datem, an ornament made of seeds of the same name, which is attached to the shoulder of the dress; it holds the secrets of their lovers: "a lock of hair or something that they have given her".

The evolution in the use of the dress has undergone transformations over time, giving rise to the traditional Awajún-Wampis dress, as it is known today:

"In the old days they used to dress in leaves, the girls were wrapped in dried banana leaves because there was no sale of fabrics, and the fathers required the expert ladies to wove cotton, but they had to plant cotton to gather, but some, those who could not.... there was a tree called Kamush, (llanchama) they took the bark off, they had to beat it and put it in water so that all its hardness came out and it was a pure fibre, they washed it, they sunned it, then they started to cook it with the chambira of thread". Luzmila, San Antonio community, Cenepa river.


Known as akachu, they were made from women's hair, traditionally worn by men. In ancient times they were made with the hair of the enemy, as a sign of having won the battle after a confrontation.

Another ornament used by men was the pigshajiitai, a woven ribbon with toucan feathers on the back, which men used to tie up their hair. The akachu kugku is a belt adorned with seeds and fragments of the congompe snail (Bulimus maximus) from which it gets its name. It is worn by women in celebrations and dances.


Women usually wear the pataku or a bracelet made of beads, they usually have white, black and red patterns. Another adornment that both men and women usually wear is the akita, which are earrings made of toucan feathers, these were worn during daily activities, such as the preparation of masato. Other bracelets worn by women are the pataku kugku, made from extremely fine beads and rainforest snail shells.

The unuch is a necklace worn by children up to two or three years of age. It is made from a snail. It is said that the snail was "so weepy" that it was left with a hollow mouth. Children wear this necklace so that the snail will talk to them and tell them that if they cry, they will end up like it (Formabiap, 2004). The kugku is a necklace worn and made by women. It is also made from a snail shell.

Currently, many Awajún women are organized through associations of craftswomen, who promote bio-jewellery. Since 2019, 18 Awajún women from the community of Shimpiyacu, department of San Martin, have decided to promote the organization of women artists "Nugkui" (Mother Earth), which is dedicated to the elaboration of bio-jewellery pieces, from seeds of plants and trees that they cultivate themselves.

In addition to revaluing the art of the Awajún women through bio-jewellery, the organisation "Nugkui" is also recovering and conserving the forests. Due to the deforestation that used to occur in their community, many species of plants and trees became extinct, the seeds of which constitute the raw material for their creations as artists.