About this object

History of use

Ticuna art is traditionally related to ritual celebrations. Making and using masks are male activities. Men are also responsible for producing most of the objects used in Ticuna rituals, including musical instruments, ritual shelters and sculpted dance sticks.


The Ticuna (Tikuna, Tukuna or Magüta) live around the border between Peru, Brazil and Colombia, where this item was acquired. At nearly 54,000 individuals, they are the most numerous people in Brazilian Amazonia. They only gained official recognition for most of their lands in the 1990s. Today the Ticuna face the challenges of guaranteeing their economic and environmental sustainability and enhancing their relations with the surrounding society while maintaining the vivacity of their extremely rich culture. Not by chance, their masks, designs and paintings have achieved international recognition. During the last two decades of the 19th century, Amazonia became the setting for an intense period of rubber exploration. The upper reaches of the Solimões River were subject to this rush for “white gold,” as rubber was called.

Specific techniques

The Ticuna utilize a very wide range of pigments and dyes; approximately fifteen species of plants are used to colour the threads for weaving bags and hammocks or painting bark, sculptures, baskets, sieves, musical instruments, paddles, gourds and the body itself. A number of mineral-based pigments are also used to decorate ceramics and the “heads” of ceremonial masks.

Physical description

Painted bark cloth. Rectangular piece of pounded bark cloth with a painting of a large blue-green bird with a yellow worm in its beak, standing on a leafy outcropping. Opposite, facing the bird, is a lizard painted yellow, blue and brown with large pointed teeth in its open mouth and spikes down its back. It clings to a branch with outstretched legs, its tail curving up behind it. Between the bird and lizard is a thin yellow snake. The back of the bark cloth shows black marks from the painting on the front.