Category Archives: Amazon craft plants

Guisador (Curcuma longa) – the golden yellow dye plant

Curcuma longa is a herbaceous perennial plant in the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) whose rhizomes (roots) are used to dye fibers and foods yellow and to make a spice/medicine (turmeric). The plant originally came from India, but it is now widely used as well throughout the Amazon. Native and campesino artisans from Peru usually call this plant “guisador” and use it to transform white chambira palm fiber to a range of shades from bright yellow to deep mustard.

Below is a photo essay showing how our partner artisans from four communities plant, harvest, and process this versatile root to dye chambira and weave its fiber strands into beautiful handicrafts.

See photos of handicrafts made by Peruvian artisans that may be purchased from the Center for Amazon Community Ecology on our Facebook photo album page.

 

planting guisador root

Planting guisador root. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan planting guisador plant in communal dye plant garden at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan planting guisador plant in communal dye plant garden at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan with guisador in planter box made with help from CACE at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan with guisador in planter box made with help from CACE at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Guisador root and flower in artisan planter box at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Guisador root and flower in artisan planter box at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Campesino artisan harvesting guisador roots at Jenaro Herrera. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Campesino artisan harvesting guisador roots at Jenaro Herrera. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Guisador root in artisan hand. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Guisador root in artisan hand. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan from Jenaro Herrera shaving guisador root with a knife. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan from Jenaro Herrera shaving guisador root with a knife. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Ocaina artisan from Nueva Esperanza grating guisador root. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Ocaina artisan from Nueva Esperanza grating guisador root. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Campesino artisans from Chino pounding guisador roots with stones. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Campesino artisans from Chino pounding guisador roots with stones. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisans from Chino pounding guisador roots with stones. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisans from Chino pounding guisador roots with stones. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan from Brillo Nuevo cooking chambira fiber with grated guisador root. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan from Brillo Nuevo cooking chambira fiber with grated guisador root. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Ocaina artisan from Nueva Esperanza cooking chambira fiber with grated guisador root. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Ocaina artisan from Nueva Esperanza cooking chambira fiber with grated guisador root. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Campesino artisans from Chino cooking chambira fiber with guisador root and other dye plants. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Campesino artisans from Chino cooking chambira fiber with guisador root and other dye plants. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Ocaina artisan from Nueva Esperanza washing and draining chambira fiber dyed with guisador root. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Ocaina artisan from Nueva Esperanza washing and draining chambira fiber dyed with guisador root. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Ocaina artisan from Nueva Esperanza hanging up chambira fiber dyed with guisador root to dry. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Ocaina artisan from Nueva Esperanza hanging up chambira fiber dyed with guisador root to dry. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira fiber dyed with guisador root and other plants drying at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira fiber dyed with guisador root and other plants drying at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira fiber dyed with guisador root and other plants drying at Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira fiber dyed with guisador root and other plants drying at Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan and son weaving chambira fiber belts dyed with guisador root and other plants at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan and son weaving chambira fiber belts dyed with guisador root and other plants at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Campesino artisan weaving chambira fiber basket dyed with guisador root and other plants at Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Campesino artisan weaving chambira fiber basket dyed with guisador root and other plants at Chino. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan and son with chambira fiber basket dyed with guisador root and other plants at Puca Urquillo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan and son with chambira fiber basket dyed with guisador root and other plants at Puca Urquillo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan from Brillo Nuevo with woven chambira fiber hot pad dyed with guisador root and other plants. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan from Brillo Nuevo with woven chambira fiber hot pad dyed with guisador root and other plants. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan from Brillo Nuevo with woven chambira fiber guitar strap dyed with guisador root and other plants. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan from Brillo Nuevo with woven chambira fiber guitar strap dyed with guisador root and other plants. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan from Brillo Nuevo with woven chambira fiber hammock dyed with guisador root and other plants. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan from Brillo Nuevo with woven chambira fiber hammock dyed with guisador root and other plants. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Yagua artisan from San Jose de Piri with woven chambira fiber doll's hammock dyed with guisador root and other plants. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Yagua artisan from San Jose de Piri with woven chambira fiber doll’s hammock dyed with guisador root and other plants. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Ocaina artisan from Nueva Esperanza weaving chambira fiber shoulder bag dyed with guisador root and other plants. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Ocaina artisan from Nueva Esperanza weaving chambira fiber shoulder bag dyed with guisador root and other plants. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achiote – a dye plant for fiber, food and faces

Bixa orellana is the scientific name for a small tree whose spiny pods contain seeds covered with an oily red substance that is used around the world to dye food, fiber, and faces. While often known as annatto when used to give naturally white margarine a hint of yellow to make it look more like butter, people in Peru usually call it achiote. Below is a gallery of photos of achiote plants and its use by native and campesino artisans in the northern Peruvian Amazon to dye chambira palm fiber various shades of red and orange for weaving handicrafts. All photos were taken by CACE director Campbell Plowden with artisan partners from the Bora native community of Brillo Nuevo on the Ampiyacu River and campesino artisans from the town of Jenaro Herrera on the Ucayali River.

Achiote flower in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achiote flower in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achiote flower and budding fruit in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achiote flower and budding fruit in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Immature achiote pods in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Immature achiote pods in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mature achiote pods in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mmature achiote pods in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mature achiote pods with seeds in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mature achiote pods with seeds in native artisan field. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan harvesting achiote pods. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan harvesting achiote pods. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding small branch of achiote pods. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding small branch of achiote pods. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achiote pods in her garden. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achiote pods in her garden. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achiote open seed pod in her hand. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achiote open seed pod in her hand. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achiote open seed pod with red finger. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achiote open seed pod with red finger. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan soaking chambira fiber with achiote seed oil. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan soaking chambira fiber with achiote seed oil. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan preparing to dye chambira fiber with achiote seed oil. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan preparing to dye chambira fiber with achiote seed oil. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan removing red oil from achiote seeds to dye chambira fiber. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan removing red oil from achiote seeds to dye chambira fiber. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Boiling chambira palm fiber with achiote to dye it red. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Boiling chambira palm fiber with achiote to dye it red. © Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira dyed with achiote, sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) and guisador. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira dyed with achiote, sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) and guisador. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) plants and chambira fiber dyeing

The Center for Amazon Community Ecology is working with native artisans from the Peruvian Amazon to develop and market innovative handicrafts to increase their livelihood and support health, education and forest conservation in their communities. Most of these crafts are woven with the fibers of chambira palm trees – most are dyed with plants the artisans collect from their backyard gardens, farm fields, or forest. Native artisans in the Ampiyacu River region commonly use leaves from a vine species of Arrabidaea in the family Bignoniaceae. Bora and Murui artisans usually call this plant “sisa,” “cudi,” or “cudi-i’.” Leaves are mashed and boiled with bleached fibers of chambira to dye it a dark red. Red fibers can also be mixed with clay rich mud to darken the fiber to maroon or near black. These photos taken in the Bora village of Brillo Nuevo show plants in different conditions and stages of processing.

Sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) dye plant growing in artisan field (2).  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) dye plant growing in artisan field (2). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) dye plant growing in artisan field (3).  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) dye plant growing in artisan field (3). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arribidaea spp.) leaves on vine on ground. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arribidaea spp.) leaves on vine on ground. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arribidaea spp.) vine growing up tree.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arribidaea spp.) vine growing up tree. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arribidaea spp.) vine.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arribidaea spp.) vine. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan planting sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan planting sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Murui artisan harvesting sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Murui artisan harvesting sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan harvesting sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan harvesting sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mashing sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves with wooden pestle.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mashing sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves with wooden pestle. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mashing sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves in a cooking pot.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mashing sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves in a cooking pot. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan cooking chambira with sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves (2).  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan cooking chambira with sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves (2). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan cooking chambira with sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves (3).  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan cooking chambira with sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves (3). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves and sisa dye chambira fiber.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves and sisa dye chambira fiber. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan dying chambira with sisa (Arribidaeae spp.). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan dying chambira with sisa (Arribidaeae spp.). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan dyeing chambira with sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan dyeing chambira with sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) leaves. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan hanging chambira fibers dyed with sisa (Arribidaeae spp.). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan hanging chambira fibers dyed with sisa (Arribidaeae spp.). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan hanging chambira fibers dyed with sisa (Arribidaeae spp.)(2). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan hanging chambira fibers dyed with sisa (Arribidaeae spp.)(2). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira dyed with achiote, sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) and guisador.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira dyed with achiote, sisa (Arrabidaea spp.) and guisador. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achira (Canna indica) – seed plant for Amazon handicrafts

Achira (Canna indica) is a lily family plant that many artisans in the Peruvian Amazon grow in their backyard gardens. When the green pods dry, the artisans use the black seeds to adorn jewelry like bracelets, necklaces, and earrings and put inside maracas and ornaments to make them rattle. These photos show the plants and seeds used by native and campesino artisan partners of the Center for Amazon Community Ecology.

Achira (Canna indica) plant flower. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achira (Canna indica) plant flower. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Campesino artisan with achira plant. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Campesino artisan with achira plant. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achira (Canna indica) seed pod. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achira (Canna indica) seed pod. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Holding achira seed (Canna indiaca) pods. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Holding achira seed (Canna indiaca) pods. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achira (Canna indica) pods and seed bracelet. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan holding achira (Canna indica) pods and seed bracelet. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achira (Canna indica) plant, pods, and seeds. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achira (Canna indica) plant, pods, and seeds. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Pouring achira (Canna indica) seeds into calabash ornament.  Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Pouring achira (Canna indica) seeds into calabash ornament. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Building a planter box for a dye plant and playing with mud – a day with Bora artisan Lucila Flores

By Campbell Plowden

Brillo Nuevo houses on stilts. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Brillo Nuevo houses on stilts. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Residents of the Bora native community of Brillo Nuevo are used to the Yaguasyacu River flooding for a few months during the rainy season that coincides with the winter months in North America. Families who live in the lowest parts of the village build their house on stilts and are used to visiting each other in their canoes during such times. In the past two years, though, the Amazon River and all of its tributaries have raised higher and inundated villages along its banks for longer. There are various theories about the cause for these increases, but it is clear these severe floods have harshly impacted the lives of thousands of people.

Hermelinda Lopez planting guisador. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Hermelinda Lopez planting guisador. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

In Brillo Nuevo, these super floods have killed or stunted the growth of many of the plants that artisans grow in their backyard gardens to dye chambira plant fibers that are woven into hammocks, bags and other handicrafts – a prime source of income for many families. This summer CACE helped a group of artisans create a collective dye plant garden in a higher part of the village so some of the most common dye plants would continue to be available even if high floods return.

Planting guisador root. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Planting guisador root. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

While some families make planter boxes to raise common medicinal and cooking herbs next to their homes, we wanted to see if it would be possible to also raise the dye plant “guisador” (Curcuma longa) in an elevated box as well. Guisador is a member of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) whose rhizomes are periodically harvested and ground up to dye chambira (or sometimes food) a deep yellow. One of the artisans told us she had tried this before without good result, but we wanted to try again with a design we thought would give the herb enough room to thrive. Artisan Lucila Flores Flores volunteered to work with us to try.

Patched up saw at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Patched up saw at Brillo Nuevo. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Hilda Campos with post-hole digger. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Hilda Campos with post-hole digger. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

On a Friday morning, three people from CACE and two other artisans showed up at Lucila’s house to launch this low-budget experiment. Our local project coordinator Javier helped Lucila scavenge some old boards and posts from her yard. He then pulled out and straightened the old nails from these to reuse while CACE project manager Yully Rojas got a handful of others left over from construction of the community pharmacy.

The pair then marked up the lengths and widths of each piece which Javier cut to the desired dimensions with a saw held together with a wooden patch, nails and wire. Fellow artisans Hilda and Ines took turns using a post-hole digger borrowed from one of the men who had last used it to plant rosewood seedlings in February thanks to our NGO partner Camino Verde and its director (and CACE advisor) Robin van Loon.

Blue morpho butterfly at Jenaro Herrera. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Blue morpho butterfly at Jenaro Herrera. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Lucila Flores with butterfly net. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan Lucila Flores with butterfly net. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan Lucila Flores and CACE putting mud in planter box. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan Lucila Flores and CACE putting mud in planter box. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan Lucila Flores dying chambira with suelda con suelda and mud. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan Lucila Flores dying chambira with suelda con suelda and mud. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

As the planter box took shape, a large blue-morpho butterfly made several passes through the yard. Lucila darted into her house and came back with a large net on a pole and waved it around numerous times, but she failed to capture the swooping blue beauty. In the past she had made some extra cash selling several kinds of butterflies to a buyer from Iquitos.

When the box was firmly attached to its sturdy posts about four feet off the ground, the team filled the inside with soil and mud. Lucila would plant little nubs of guisador root in it later with hopes of raising a regular crop of this essential dye plant.

When we passed by her house later in the afternoon, we saw Lucila swishing a batch of chambira fiber around in a small puddle of mud – this was the second stage of her dying it with a plant called “suelda con suelda.”

Suelda con suelda medicinal and dye plant. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Suelda con suelda medicinal and dye plant. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira dyed with suelda con suelda. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira dyed with suelda con suelda. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Suelda con suelda is a member of the plant family Loranthaceae – popularly known as the “mistletoe” family. It is a thin vine-like parasitic plant that not only winds around the leaves and branches of its host – it actually penetrates its woody tissue to draw off some of its host’s nutrients. This species is likely Phthirusa adunca, although this common name is also used to refer to its relative Phoradendron spp.

Some Bora families introduce the plant into their backyard citrus trees or least tolerate its presence so they can have it available as a source of medicine (used treating joint pain and other ailments), but they have to keep it under control or it can overwhelm its host and spread through bird dispersal of its seeds. While it is not a primary dye plant, some artisans use the leaves of suelda con suelda to dye chambira fiber a light greenish brown. If the dyed plant is then mixed with the right kind of mud, the color of the fiber turns almost black.

I look forward to seeing more crafts made by this talented artisan who is always smiling.

Bora artisan Lucila Flores making chambira fiber belt. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan Lucila Flores making chambira fiber belt. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan and CACE team at planter box. Photo by Javier/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Artisan and CACE team at planter box. Photo by Javier/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Brillo Nuevo artisans create dye plant gardens

by Campbell Plowden

Sisa vine with leaves. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Sisa vine (Arrabideae spp.(?)) with leaves. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

All artisans from native communities in the Peruvian Amazon use a wide variety of roots, fruit, leaves and bark to dye the fiber of chambira palm trees to weave and sell beautiful handicrafts. These materials come from herb, shrubs, and vines planted in backyard gardens and from trees that grow naturally on river banks, fallow fields and/or old forests. Artisans can usually access enough dye plants from season to season to create the full range of colors, but two successive years of strong rainy seasons flooded most of Brillo Nuevo and other villages close to the river level throughout the northern Peruvian Amazon. These inundations killed many dye plants or damaged them so much that they may take up to five years to recover.

Manuel Mibeco curaca. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Manuel Mibeco curaca. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

On June 20, CACE helped the artisans of Brillo Nuevo to create a dye plant garden in higher ground so future floods would not prevent artisans from collecting an adequate supply of dye plants to keep weaving their handicrafts. The Brillo Nuevo curaca (traditional leader) Manuel Mibeco kindly allowed the village’s artisans to convert a small plot growing yuca (also known as manioc and cassava) to this garden that would be available to all of them in hard times.

The process began by harvesting (and peeling) the roots of maturing yuca plants. The artisans then laid out lines to plant seeds, seedlings and rhizomes of key dye plants vulnerable to flooding including guisador (Curcuma longa), sisa/cudi (Arrabidaea spp. ?), jangua, and achiote (Bixa orellana).

Kori Vasquez carrying yuca roots. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Kori Vasquez carrying yuca roots. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Below are some other photos of preparing the dye plant garden and dying chambira fiber.

See the CACE video Mishquipanga – a Peruvian Dye Plant to see how one dye plant is harvested and processed.

See the CACE video Artisans of the Ampiyacu for a visual and musical overview of craft-making by Bora and other native artisans of the region.

Lidaberna Panduro harvesting yuca. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Lidaberna Panduro harvesting yuca. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Lucila Flores digging hole with machete. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Lucila Flores digging hole with machete. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Beetle grub in soil. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Beetle grub in soil. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Graciela planting achiote seeds. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Graciela planting achiote (Bixa orellana) seeds. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achiote seeds. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Achiote (Bixa orellana) seeds. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Claudel planting guisador. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Claudel planting guisador (Curcuma longa). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Dye plant fruit and seeds. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Dye plant fruit and seeds. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Hilda Campos planting sisa dye plant. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Hilda Campos planting sisa (Arrabideae spp. (?)) dye plant. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Amrit Moore and Bora children at dye plant garden. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Amrit Moore and Bora children at dye plant garden. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Hermelinda Lopez planting guisador. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Hermelinda Lopez planting guisador (Curcuma longa). Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Casilda Vasquez and sisa dyed chambira. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Casilda Vasquez and chambira dyed with sisa (Arrabidaea spp). leaves. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mishquipanga (Renealmina alpina) – a dye plant from the Peruvian Amazon

Bora native artisan harvesting mishquipanga fruits. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora native artisan harvesting mishquipanga fruits. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mishquipanga (Renealmina alpina) – a dye plant from the Peruvian Amazon is the first in a series of videos produced by the Center for Amazon Community Ecology about dye plants of the Peruvian Amazon. See the full album of mishquipanga plants and use.

Bora native artisan Ines Chichaco from Brillo Nuevo on the Ampiyacu River describes how she and other artisans harvest and process mishquipanga fruits from this ginger family plant to dye chambira fiber purple and mix the dyed fiber with mud to turn the fiber navy blue for weaving handicrafts.

English subtitles.are provided for the original narration in Spanish. CACE is documenting the use of these dye plants as part of its project to assist native artisans and communities to improve the sustainable harvest, diversity, quality and marketing of handicrafts to improve family income and forest conservation.

Mishquipanga red and black fruits. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mishquipanga red and black fruits. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora native artisan Ines Chichaco with mishquipanga. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora native artisan Ines Chichaco with mishquipanga. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mishquipanga fruit pulp and pod. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mishquipanga fruit pulp and pod. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan daughter mashing mishquipanga. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Bora artisan daughter mashing mishquipanga. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mashing mishquipanga fruit pods. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mashing mishquipanga fruit pods. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mixing mud with mishquipanga dyed chambira. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Mixing mud with mishquipanga dyed chambira. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira fiber dyed with mishquipanga and mud. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira fiber dyed with mishquipanga and mud. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira basket dyed purple with mishquipanga. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira basket dyed purple with mishquipanga. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira hot pad dyed dark blue with mishquipanga and mud. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology

Chambira hot pad dyed dark blue with mishquipanga and mud. Photo by Campbell Plowden/Center for Amazon Community Ecology