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Decorative Baskets

Decorative Basket from the Wounaan –

Galería Namu of Costa Rica has recently received a new collection from renowned weavers of the Wounaan tribe, an indigenous people located in the Darién territory of thick, lowland rain forests of Panama, including this decorative basket. These handmade works of art offer a stunning array of exquisite designs in larger, medium and small sized baskets.

Referred to by the Wounaan in their native language as Hösig Di, these finely crafted handmade decorative baskets are tightly woven implementing a coil-construction from tender, new leaves of the dangerously spiked black palm tree, Astrocaryum standleyanum. The Wounaan call this palm: chunga.

Chunga is aligned with the Wounaan’s tradition and daily life in that each decorative basket “…begins its creation with an inherent spiritual quality.” Reportedly, Wounaan ancestors braided rope from chunga to tie demons to the exposed roots of trees along the river banks; with heavy rains and consequent rising water levels, the demons would then drown.

Since earlier times, the Wounaan’s  Hösig Di handmade basket art form has been passed on from mother to daughter. Prior to 1980, however, these handmade baskets were rarely decorated.  It was from the “outside” that the Wounaan were encouraged to weave more designs into their baskets. Already masters of their craft, the Wounann’s basketry skills exploded with color and design and thus began a sustainable cottage industry. Collectors and museums around the world were quick to identify the quality of these decorative baskets.

Typically, the Wounaan baskets’ designs are drawn from two aspects of tribal life: that of their environmental surroundings, called flora and fauna patterns, and a wide variety of tribal designs and geometric patterns used in their traditional body painting, an aspect of tribal decoration which continues to current day.

To acquire the coloring for the designs of the chunga palm leaf, the Wounaan women create vats of dyes from flowers, roots, bark and other organic vegetation, soaking the natural palm leaf fibres to produce a wide variety of earthy and bolder colors.

Intricate basketry skills can be observed in both elements of design work and master weaving skills. For example, with the colorful flora and fauna collection exotic, tropical birds such as the scarlet macaw, the toucan and green parrots are represented in fine detail; local flowers and butterflies, too, are exemplary works of this tribal art form.

Pieces such as this decorative basket are available from our gallery, located in San Jose, Costa Rica and from our website: GaleriaNamu.com.  Although each basket is unique and only one of each is available, a basket’s design can be closely replicated; we have been working with artisans of the Wounaan for over 13 years and have established a special relationship which allows for “special orders.”

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