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This information was automatically generated from data provided by MOA: University of British Columbia. It has been standardized to aid in finding and grouping information within the RRN. Accuracy and meaning should be verified from the Data Source tab.


Rattle bowl, red slip and design inside, cream slip and design outside. Round vessel has a narrow circular base from which thin walls flare widely toward a straight walled rim. The exterior is light brown, painted in a small, open pattern of dark brown lines. At rim and base are encircling lines of dark brown and orange. The interior of the bowl is painted orange, overlaid with a large line pattern in light and dark brown, including a cross at bottom centre, with a smaller cross at midpoint. At the rim are two encircling lines with small regularly placed triangles protruding. The finish both inside and out is somewhat shiny. The base is thick, and holds noise makers that rattle when the bowl is moved.

History Of Use

The kené, or design is executed by women and taught by practice from one generation to the other. Kené motifs are revealed to specific people via icaruses, the songs shamans perform in ayahuasca ceremonies. The term ayahuasca refers to both the vine of a plant, Banisteriopsis caapi, and the drink made by boiling in water a mixture of ayahuasca and either chacruna (Psychotria viridis) or cahua (Diplopterys cabrerana). At the ceremony, the shaman drinks the brewed mixture to help gain access to the spiritual world. Like chanting, painting connects the four worlds of the Shipibo worldview. The world where we live includes humans, animals, plants and all their spirits; it relates to the world of the waters, inhabited only by spirits. The yellow world, by contrast, is the domain of evil spirits and wrongdoings, while the world of the sun is where the spirits of humans, animals and plants go to live in the end. Powerful shamans visit this last world when they drink ayahuasca, assuming the form of a jaguar, boa or puma.

Iconographic Meaning

The kené, or design, reproduced in wood, canvas, ceramics or human skin is an expression of the Shipibo’s worldview. It is inspired by the anaconda, which combines in its skin all possible patterns.


The Shipibo live along the Ucayali River, a southern tributary of the Upper Amazon in Peru. In the 18th century they joined forces with traditional enemies to drive away missionaries and other foreigners. From the late 1800s to the 1920s they were enslaved by the caucheros, rubber entrepreneurs, and forced by violence to meet rubber production quotas. The caucheros were in turn employed by foreign companies, notably the infamous Anglo-Peruvian Amazon Rubber Co. Today, the ca. 36,000 Shipibo are under pressure from the neighbouring Spanish-speaking mestizo population, commercial fishermen who have depleted their traditional waters of fish, turtles, and manatees, destroying their subsistence base. Money from tourism, primarily through women’s arts — textiles, jewellery and pottery — has become crucial to buy the food, medicine and access to Western education that will allow the Shipibo to survive in the modern world.

Item History

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