Bag

About this object

History of use

Cloth bags are woven and worn by women. The kené, or design is executed by women and taught by practice from one generation to the other. Kené motifs are revealed to specific people via icaruses, the songs shamans perform in ayahuasca ceremonies.

Narrative

The Shipibo live along the Ucayali River, a southern tributary of the Upper Amazon in Peru. In the 18th century they joined forces with traditional enemies to drive away missionaries and other foreigners. From the late 1800s to the 1920s they were enslaved by the caucheros, rubber entrepreneurs, and forced by violence to meet rubber production quotas. The caucheros were in turn employed by foreign companies, notably the infamous Anglo-Peruvian Amazon Rubber Co. Today, the ca. 36,000 Shipibo are under pressure from the neighbouring Spanish-speaking mestizo population, commercial fishermen who have depleted their traditional waters of fish, turtles, and manatees, destroying their subsistence base. Money from tourism, primarily through women’s arts — textiles, jewellery and pottery — has become crucial to buy the food, medicine and access to Western education that will allow the Shipibo to survive in the modern world.

Iconographic meaning

The kené, or design, usually reproduced in wood, canvas, ceramics or human skin is an expression of the Shipibo’s worldview. It is inspired by the anaconda, which combines in its skin all possible patterns.

Physical description

Rectangular bag made of beige cloth with three bands of warp striping (brown, yellow and orange); sewn along the edges. Both sides are painted black and brown with geometric designs. Sewn to the corners of the slit opening is a black, red and cream woven strap.