Saturday, April 1, 2017

BestSeatIBW2016- Shipibo-Conibo baby carrier*

*This post was originally written as a Facebook post for Babywearing International of Cleveland for International Babywearing Week 2016.   Some edits have been made for clarity.

Here’s another artistic carrier from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (1999.47.306). This is a carrier from the Shipibo-Conibo people from Peru, and was made sometime in the 20th century. Here’s a portion from an article about Shipibo-Conibo textiles that describes some of the meaning behind the design:

 “Textile and ceramic arts of the Shipibo feature a distinctive all-over pattern of designs known as kené or quene designs. Shipibo people frequently say that these are like the paths of life, or roads, or the meanders of the rivers where they live, sometimes they say they are the patterns and movement of the anaconda or of Ronin the cosmic serpent, and sometimes they say that these patterns are only a fraction of what their ancestors used to know…”

The meanings behind the patterns are often overseen by a shaman, whose “expanded consciousness and sense of cosmic vision is the key to understanding the distinctive Shipibo designs. It is the responsibility of the shaman to rescue the designs of the heavenly world and transmit them to the women. The production of these designs on all the objects of material culture gives power and protection to the home, to individuals, and to the whole group. Through kené designs, the culture of the Shipibo is at once defined, decorated, and owned by both individuals and the group.” (Odland, Claire and Feldman,Nancy, "Shipibo Textile Practices 1952-2010" (2010)). Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings. Paper 42.)

Fun fact: horizontal stripes and patterns are features of women’s garments, while men’s clothing features vertical designs!

As for this carrier, it seems to looks quite a lot like a pouch, in that it appears to be stitched into a tube, with the bone portions dangling off what must be the bottom. I suspect, given the narrow width of the fabric, that it was not hands-free to use, but must have mitigated the strain of carrying a baby or child, and certainly served to reinforce community bonds, within the family and beyond.

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