Strength of the Jaguar Yawanawa Kusma
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These kusmas are made by Hushahu Yawanawa and 2 of her nieces, Yawavana Yawanawa and Yvarani Yawanawa. The money raised by this project goes to support the women’s families and children in the Yawanawa village.
The Yawanawa nation is a community that lives within the Gregorio River Indigenous Lands of the Amazon. They are deeply connected to the environment around them, and have practiced the art of plant medicines and traditional healing for generations.
Traditionally both Yawanawa men and women were able to hold positions of authority. However, with the rise of colonization and European influence in the Amazon, female leadership became greatly diminished. By the 19th century, only men were allowed to lead and take part in Shamanic ceremonies with plant medicines.
Hushahu Yawanawa experienced childhood as a traditional Yawanawa woman. She was raised with the expectations of marriage and child-rearing and was married by the age of 18. She never felt called to the traditional female roles of her community and became fascinated by the pajé, or Shamans, as a child.
Throughout her teenage years, Hushahu shares that she felt compelled by the ancestors to forge a new path. She often dreamed of becoming a pajé like the men in her community and felt inclined to counter the dominant patriarchal ideals that Western society had brought to her people.
At the age of 26, Hushahu Yawanawa declared her intention to become the first-ever female pajé.
Despite intense backlash from her husband, her father, and her greater community, Hushahu followed through with her dream.
Like her male counterparts, she underwent an intense thirteen-month dieta, or training, to prepare her for the pajé role. During the thirteen months, she lived in the jungle in total isolation surviving through the many plants and animals that offered themselves as nourishment. This dieta allowed her to learn the traditional shamanic, medicinal and spiritual practices performed by previous leadership.
It was only with the support of her mother and two sisters that Hushahu was able to survive the intensity of the dieta. Her sister Putanny, also feeling called to divert from the traditional path for women, became initiated as a leader among the Yawanawa people as Hushuahu entered her dieta.
Both siblings ended the 13 months with newfound respect, authority, and appreciation from the men in their community.
To this day, Hushahu and her sister are still leaders within the Yawanawa tribe.
While in her dieta, Hushahu created multiple artworks to reflect on the many lessons she was gifted by the ancestors. She turned her visions and dreams into paintings, and collected seeds infused with messages from the ancestors to turn into ceremonial jewelry and paintings.
Hushahu creates beautiful artwork infused with the blessings of the jungle and the ancestors. She uses her artwork not only to share her dieta experience, but also to lead and teach other women about healing rituals. And of course, she is now passing this wisdom on to the next generation of women.
We are incredibly honored to have received this shipment of kusmas, traditional ceremonial dresses created by Hushahu and her family.
Not only are they beautiful, but these dresses are also charged with the intense force of the jungle and carry the power of Hushahu’s own determination and knowledge.
These one-of-a-kind kusmas will bless you with the medicines of the jungle, feminine power and determination, and will encourage you as you travel along your own unique path. They were produced during a plant dieta, and each artist sat for many weeks in prayer and spiritual payment painting these magnificent designs. The price reflects the hours and hours of work to complete each one of these masterpieces, as well as years of spiritual study these women have undergone and the spiritual power that they carry and thus infused into these pieces.
Symbolism of this piece: Alice Haibara, one of Hushahu’s longest students. It has the symbolism of the strength of the jaguar and the healing herbs (ni pei). It also calls upon the sacred boa constrictor.
**If you are interested in learning more about Hushahu, her interview is part of the Hapé Archives Interview Series.
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