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Ashaninka Girl Weaving Palm Leaves

Indigenous Amazonian girl weaving a mat out of chambira palm (Astrocaryum chambira) leaves.  Although many Amazonian Indians sleep in hammocks, many prefer to sleep on the floor on these palm leaf mats.  In addition to weaving mats, members of the Ashaninka tribe use the fiber from chambira palms to make bags, baskets, hammocks, ropes, string instruments, hunting bow string, hunting snares, and many other crafts.  Many species of palms are used for fiber and food by Amazonian Indians. However, the most important species is chambira whose leaves are used not only to weave mats, as in the above photo, but also the fiber is used to make a fine thread that can be weaved.  The resulting thread is surprisingly soft to the touch and commonly is woven into wrist bands ("pulseras") by many tribes.  According to botanists, chambira is a "feather palm," rather than a "fan palm," meaning that the mature leaves are shaped like a feather (pinnate leaves), rather than a fan.  However, when the leaf is immature, it appears as in the above photograph and can be woven into a mat.  Mats can be used to sit on, or can be used to act as room dividers.  In addition to the obvious weaving of palm leaves, there are many other interesting aspects of Ashaninkan culture evident in the above photograph.  For example, behind the woman on the ground, is a "baby sling" which is used to carry infants.  Note the South American Tapir (Tapirus terrestris) bones attached to the bottom of the sling.  These bones as a rattle, whose sound is often soothing to crying infants.  Another interesting aspect shown in the above picture is the blonde color of the hair of the child in above image which is probably due to malnutrition rather than genes.  Finally, note the monkey tooth necklace on the little girl, which were most probably obtained from monkeys hunted with blowguns.         


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Photograph Copyright Chuck Clark, all rights reserved. Ashaninka Weaving Palm Leaves