Wounaan Baskets


from the Darien Rainforest in Panama


Presented by Basket & Art

About Us

My first encounter with Wounaan baskets and the weavers was in 2007. The baskets were the most intricate basketry that had ever been seen. I said I did not think I could draw it, much less weave it. Out of curiosity, I asked them to teach me.

My first basket was a geometric pattern which I thought had to be easier to weave than a pictorial. I started by counting stitches. The weavers told me that I could not do that because the chunga threads were split arbitrarily. Their size was not uniform. They told me I had to feel it. Since I was not an experienced weaver, I did a row of stitches here and there. I found myself losing track of the pattern. I could tell the new work had lost its feel from the old. Sometimes I felt I had not done anything, even though I pushed myself to weave a few rows at a time. Progress was slow. There was no instant gratification. However, I felt accomplished every time I looked at my basket. The excitement for me was to choose which thread to use in the midst of all these rich colorful threads.

All the weavers I met were extremely friendly and open. Two of them gave me the colorful skirts they wore. I took them to town shopping. From my observation, the most interesting items to them were jewelry and t-shirts which was no surprise to me. They made intricate headpieces and necklaces for their formal gatherings by using coins and beads. When I gave them some American coins, the first thing they did was to hold the coins up to their faces.

Click to see Geometric pattern

Geometric pattern

Click to see Sea turtle

Sea turtle

The weavers and I shared one favorite food: rice. One just cooked the rice for me, perhaps she thought my rice was too bland. They liked to put a little salt in it. We all liked fish and agreed the fish skin was the delicacy. There was no surprise there since they lived by rivers and the ocean. I’ve certainly seen a lot of fish, seaweed and ocean wildlife designs in their baskets.

Click to see Parrots on trees

Parrots on trees

Click to see Night scene imagined by the weaver

Night scene imagined by the weaver

Click to see Butterflies or moths at night

At night, butterflies or moths?

Most of the basket designs reflected what they saw every day. Some geometric patterns were from their traditional tattoos. A lot of parrots were depicted in their baskets. I saw one black basket with butterflies and other insects. The weaver told me you had to imagine that it was a night scene. Use your imagination! There is no need to go to art school for that!

Click to see Hummingbirds dancing around flowers

Hummingbirds dancing around flowers

I have not been directly involved with the Wounaan for a few years now. I miss them. I still have some Wounaan baskets, therefore I set up this website, www.basketandart.com, to sell them and bring the amazing basketry of the Wounaan and Embera to the attention of the general public. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do.

If anyone would like to know more about, or wish to help the Wounaan and Embera, please visit Native Future, www.nativefuture.org. It is a non-profit organization that was formed by traders, supporters, and former Peace Corps volunteers.

If you have any questions and comments, please contact us. We can be reached at:

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