Yine Textiles

The most important symbols of the Yine identity, after their language, are their designs (Smith, 2021). There are about 31 geometric patterns known as Yine Yonga or Yine designs. These patterns represent a wide variety of animals, ranging from anacondas, frogskins, fish, turtle shells, to the jaguar, among others.


The relationship between the Yonga and animals is rooted in the very origin of the fabric that serves as the canvas for these designs. According to Yine mythology, it was the spider that taught the women the techniques of spinning and weaving cotton.

The word Yonga, is understood as writing or lettering, in the case of the designs it translates "to paint", "to embody" (Smith,2019). Yonga  is used to describe handmade designs with colored lines on a contrasting background. Yongata, on the other hand, refers to the action of painting these lines, as opposed to sagata, which is used to describe the action of covering surfaces, such as vessels, clothing and the body. The most complex form of these designs is that which are seen on the clothing, pottery and body ornamentation of women during the Pishta, the most socially significant festival of the Yine culture. The designs serve aesthetic functions in ornamentation and are different for each gender.

Each design has its own method and sequence of strokes, but generally begins with the frame that will contain the design, starting from a corner and applying repetitive patterns that maintain symmetry without being completely identical. Another feature that highlights the complexity of Yonga designs is that they paint using three types of natural dyes, depending on the surface to be painted. These dyes are barely visible while being applied, so skill is required to achieve the desired appearance of the designs during the painting process.

The transmission of knowledge for Yonga designs follows the Yimaka or "imitation" approach in indigenous pedagogy. In this way, grandmothers play a fundamental role as teachers of the girls, who accompany them from an early age in their activities and learn through active imitation. This process involves "learning by doing" in the company of their grandmothers. To facilitate learning, the grandmothers use plants or elements associated with powers of knowledge that help improve the girls' memory and skills, such as the smoke from the burning of a paucar nest (a bird considered a good weaver), which the girls should receive this transmisison in their hands. In addition, there are other plants and elements that enhance learning. The teaching process is accompanied by body hygiene practices and advice. (Minedu, 2019).

What makes a good designer is a woman who has the ability to have visions, to see whole compositions of Yonga designs, because that is what allows them to capture the patterns confidently on a material surface.

Today, the practice of Yonga designs continues, but has undergone some significant changes. On the one hand, some men have begun to publicly practice painting these designs, thus contributing to their diffusion. On the other hand, although incipiently, Yine women have entered the art world, and have also organized themselves through associations to continue promoting and marketing their art.

On the 28th May, 2019, the Ministry of Culture declared the knowledge, wisdom and techniques associated with the production of Yonga designs as Cultural Heritage of the Nation in the regions of Cusco, Loreto, Madre de Dios and Ucayali (Mincul, 2019).  This declaration was achieved thanks to the work of the Federación Nativa del Río Madre de Dios y Afluentes (FENAMAD), as well as the work of the anthropologists Luisa Elvira Belaunde, Luis Felipe López and the masters Yine; Rittma Urquia Sebastián and Daniel Urquia Sebastián. This declaration recognizes the importance of the Yonga designs for the historical memory and social organization of the Yine people. In addition, it contributes to the preservation of ritual practices and aesthetic patterns, as well as to the expression of the creativity of those who carry this traditional art.


Among the various fibers used by the Yine people is cotton. The cultivation of cotton as the main material involves several processes, including harvesting, selection, spinning and, finally, weaving, which is used on the loom to make garments, backpacks and other items.


The tipli and sajijpal are the main inputs used to obtain natural dyes. The tipli is a root similar to cassava. When it is cut into very fine pieces, a yellow color can be obtained, which is used to make the first strokes of the iconographies that will be painted on the textiles; then this yellow color is mixed with the black mud or sajijpal and the black colour is obtained (RER, 2011).

In addition, huito is another natural dye used mainly to paint the body. Achiote or apijigre in Yine language is also used, which provides the red color used to dye the cotton. It is important to mention that nowadays, the use of natural dyes has begun to be replaced with acrylic paints especially used for fabrics.


The traditional garments used by men and women are the kushma and pampanilla.  The process of elaboration of these garments is long and delicate and includes the art of weaving through the backstrap loom. These objects are considered by men and women as the most difficult to weave, but at the same time the most precious (RER, 2011).

The kushma is used by men and consists of a long tunic with a vertical collar. Formerly the kushma had a ritual character as it was associated with the energy or spirit of the person who wore it. No one else could use the Kushma of another person, as this was considered dangerous, since it could be damaged by the energy of the person who possessed it. These garments were left in houses as guardians, to protect homes from evil spirits or thieves. Nowadays, the kushma has lost its magical religious meaning and its use has diminished.

The pampanilla or skirt is traditionally worn by women. The skirts are tubular in shape, elongated in width, and women adjust them to the waist. They are decorated with geometric designs and are adorned with various seeds known in Yine as phimejiro, macojeli (grey seeds) and piñis. In ancient times, women wore the pampanillas daily and often had at least two.

The use of the blouse was introduced during the rubber era by employers. Before that, Yine women were bare-breasted. Early blouses were made of silk and other fabrics that were exchanged for products made by the Yine. Over time, blouses were adapted to cotton and decorated with designs specific to their culture.


Gitnuprechil or Aparina, is a traditional baby carrier of the Yine people, which is made from cotton thread and woven on a backstrap loom.

However, at present, it is being replaced by fabrics of various colors that are acquired through traders, or during visits to nearby towns.