Emberá Ella Puru (IV)

Posted by Alfredo J. Martiz J. (Panama City, Panama) on 30 December 2009 in Lifestyle & Culture.

Jagua Body Painting
"Jagua is an important fruit in the life of Embera and Waounan people. It is used as a black dye to paint people's skins. The pigment remains embedded in the skin until the external layer is naturally exfoliated, generally lasting between 10 to 12 days. It is indelible dark blue or black, like a two-week tattoo. The jagua body painting is still in use for all celebrations and is one of the most enduring and important customs for both Waounan and Embera people."

Body Painting
"Both men and women practice body painting with the jagua fruit. Some people cover nearly their full body. Even the lower half of the face covered from a line extending back from the corners of the mouth. Some designs are solid blocks of painting with small patches of skin left open to show contrast. Others are elaborate patterns drawn with delicate lines by artists with the thin tip of a bamboo stick. Each design has its own meaning and each age group and gender are assigned specific ones."

Jagua Preparation
"The jagua is an inedible fruit which the Waounan and Embera people have long used as a body dye. The fruit is hard and needs to be grated. The pulp is then mixed with a very small amount of water and squeezed by hand or inside a piece of fabric to extract a liquid that darkens as it oxidizes. To make it stronger, the liquid is often heated in a pan over a fire to make it more viscous. Then the jagua juice is ready to be applied directly on dry skin. It dries in minutes and the indelible markings cannot be removed with any type of soap, detergent or chemicals. It remains in the skin until the upper layer of skin is naturally exfoliated by the body."

Reference: The Embera and Waounan Indigenous People of Panama and Colombia

Río Chagres, Panamá. December 20th, 2009

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Nikon D70s
1/200 second
ISO 200
60 mm (35mm equiv.)


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