Hand painted skirt, (Chitonti)

Hand painted skirt, (chitonti)

Shipibo-Conibo style

Ucayali River, Peru, 20th century


What is it and who made it? This is a painted skirt called a chitonti. The Shipibo-Conibo people of the Peruvian Amazon make embroidered and painted clothing for special events and celebrations. The men wear tunics known as cushmas, while the women wear painted skirts called chitonti. The women make and decorate all the textiles.

How was it made? The Shipibo-Conibo women paint the designs on white cotton that they weave on a backstrap loom. They make chitontis by sewing two lengths of cloth together. After they have finished making the cotton textile, they paint it with natural vegetable and earth pigments using slivers of bamboo as brushes.

Do the patterns have a meaning? The Shipibo-Conibo call the distinctive patterns of the chitontis cloths kené or quene. There are many patterns and each is unique. They are inspired by the songs of Shipibo-Conibo shamen. They describe the patterns as representing the forest trails, the meanders of the rivers where they live, or the adventures of ancestral beings. Sometimes they say they are the patterns and movement of the anaconda. Each individual motif also has meaning such as the Southern Cross star constellation, a child’s soul, the leaf of a medicinal plant or falling rain.

Linked objects:

Women’s bead aprons (keweyú)

Ceramic bowl