Matsigenka Adornment

Facial adornments play a significant role in the appearance of Amazonian peoples and the Matsigenka in particular. Body and face painting are practices performed by both men and women. For this, they use pigments from achiote seeds and huito to obtain colors such as red and bluish black, with which they paint their faces, differentiating the designs between women and men.

The designs provide information about the status or plans of the wearer. For example, in women they indicate at what moment of their menstrual cycle they are in, while other designs are directed to supernatural beings, either to attract them with a protective purpose or to drive them away (Rosengren, 2004).

According to previous studies, this was a form of sankenari or something that is painted, sankenari can also mean "jaguar". The term suggests that it is a spotted or painted animal (Rosengren, 2004). Another facial adornment used by women was the curique, a silver or seed piece that adorned the nose.

These facial adornments are not only an artistic expression, but also play an important cultural and symbolic role in Matsigenka identity.


The Matsigenka used to wear feather crowns, or matsairintsi, as part of their traditional dress. This custom is now practiced by a few within the community. The crowns were made with feathers of birds of various colors, such as the curassow, toucan and red macaw. Cotton thread was used to intertwine the feathers and achieve a distinctive finish that would identify them from others. These crowns were reserved for special occasions, as David Ríos tells us:

It is the custom that we have a mark, it is like saying, true matsigenka custom (...) we wear to walk, to go to a party, or to visit, when our people come, we identify ourselves that we are true matsigenka people." David Ríos, Shipetiari, 2023.

Feather crowns are made by both men and women. However, there are differences in the details and durability time, as David explains:

Women do it better than men and it lasts, because they do it weaving, while men do it with pita (...) men make the crown provisionally. At least it can last us a year or two, while women weave well, it lasts three or four years". David Ríos, Shipetiari, 2032.

The crown making process is an art that requires special skills, and both women and men prepare themselves from an early age to master it.

The artisans who make these objects have a deep knowledge and mastery of traditional techniques, which allows them to create pieces of great quality and beauty. Although some of these objects have an ephemeral life, they are made with great care and attention to detail, seeking to achieve perfection in their elaboration.