The Matsigenka people mainly live in the Peruvian departments of Cusco and Madre de Dios, close to the Brazilian and Bolivian borders. Their language belongs to the Arawak linguistic family. In their language, Matsigenka means “human beings”, the human species in its entirety. Data obtained from the Ministry of Culture estimates there is a population of 5,982 people and another 670 in isolation. Located in and around the Manú Biosphere Reserve, the Matsigenka people thrive in a region of astonishing biodiversity.
Throughout the year they practice fishing and agriculture. The most common crops harvested are yuca, platano, annatto, coffee, and cocoa.
The cosmovision of Matsigenka is rooted in territory. For them, the universe is made up of 5 worlds. The human world is Kipatsi, the worlds above us are Menkoripatsa and Inkite, the worlds below us are Kamavira and Gamaaironi. These worlds are connected by the Urubamba river.
We have been working with the Matsigenka people since 2018, building relations and systems to develop trade with traditional artforms.
At the end of 2019, we held an exhibition called Kametiri at Qorikancha that introduced Matsigenka culture through their art, featuring the community of Shipitiari. The exhibit, shown through photography and artistic installations, demonstrated how the Matsigenka use natural material in their daily lives.
For our work alongside the Matsigenka, we partner with séPerú, an organization that assists in developing and strengthening the bond between humans and the ecosystem.
The Matsigenka are one of numerous tribes culturally alive in the Peruvian Amazon and as for millennia they are connected to nature through their rainforest home, producing numerous artefacts from locally sourced materials.
The techniques used for Matsigenka textile items are reserved for women only and are transmitted from one generation to the other within the same family.
Their iconography is woven into geometric designs whose patterns are woven depending on the story being told, using a base of four colours: white, cream, brown and pink; the pigments are derived from plants and tree barks. Their designs can often represent whether the person is married or single, to personality features or individual tastes. For small products such as bracelets, wooden hand looms are used, while for larger pieces like cushmas or handbags, back strap looms are utilized. The entire production process of an adult cushma, from cotton picking to the finished piece, can take up to 2 months and more. As a tradition, it is during the first menstrual period that girls must spin all the thread necessary for her first cushma.
The material used to make the baskets is a vine called tamichi (tapetza in Matsigenka language) that is collected from the 'monte', the higher lands of the rainforest. The most laborious part of the process is the collection of the material and subsequent preparation. First of all, the vine is peeled to remove the dark outer layer and is then divided into different fibres which are then used directly for the basket weave.
Jempos are a common element used among Matsigenka people to carry any kind of object or material. They are made from a vegetable fibre called cetico. The material is obtained from the bark of the tree with the same name, the cetico. This bark is softened in the water to extract from its finer fibres. Later, the fibres are twisted together to obtain the fine thread with which the jempos are woven by hand.
In their designs, they also create patterns by adding the colour purple, which they obtain by rubbing the yarn with sanipanga leaves.
Hand-knotted Cetico palm fibre, 100% organic cotton, with natural pigment.
Handwoven natural cotton. Natural pigment.