Common Thread

Cantagallo is a settlement currently occupied by a large number of families of the Shipibo-Konibo Indigenous peoples of the Amazon who came to Lima in the late 1990s. Cantagallo is located on top of a landfill next to the Rímac River, in the center of Lima. It was founded in 2000 and became an association the following year. Since then, the Shipibo people have created an important urban community, originally started by dozens of families and now comprising more than 3000 people. Over the course of those two decades, they have vindicated their right to live as Indigenous people in Lima, a racist and hostile city. Thanks to the efforts of the Shipibo people and several collaborations, they have managed to establish a bilingual intercultural educational school, they have extended their culture through painting, design, textiles, literature, theater, music, and public art, and they have become the country’s most recognized Amazonian Indigenous settlement with a major impact on the public sphere. Non Shinanbo (“Our Inspirations”) is an association of mother artisans of the Shipibo community of Cantagallo.
Olinda Silvano Inuma – Reshijabe (b. 1969) is an Amazonian Shipibo activist and artist. Her Shupubo name Reshijabe means “the first breath.” During her adolescence, she left her community, Paoyhan, and moved to the city of Pucallpa where she worked as a domestic worker. It was through that experience that Silvano learned Spanish, and she later moved to Lima where she worked as a street vendor selling artistic and artisan objects. In the capital city, she participated in different courses and trainings through which she perfected her art. She is was one of the founders of the Shipibo community in Cantagallo in 2000 and is one of its most active leaders. Through her work as a promoter, she has managed to encourage the work of hundreds of artist and artisan women who transmit Shipibo experience and tradition through weaving, painting, literature, song, and forms of public art and murals. She has been recognized by the Congress of the Republic of Peru, the Women’s Ministry, the National University of San Marcos, and others for her artistic work and her struggle for the rights of women and the Shipibo community. In 2021 she received a special mention from the National Literature Prize, in the category of Children’s and Youth Literature for the book “El día que la abuela me regaló los colores kenè” [“The Day that my Grandmother Gave Me the Kenè Colors”) illustrated by Silvano and written by Julio Vega.
Kené design is one of the manifestations of the ancestral culture of the Shipibo-Konibo people, which was recognized as cultural patrimony of Peru in 2008. Kené is expressed through geometric designs and patterns used in textile art, ceramics, body painting, and other forms that go beyond what is understood by the western category of “art.” Kené not only synthesizes an aesthetic and scientific knowledge, but also narrates the origins of the Shipibo-Konibo people. The transmission of kené occurs through relations between grandmothers and mothers, as well as encounters with sacred plants of the Amazonian world, such as ayahuasca or piripiri, which activate spiritual visuals and new forms of knowledge. According to Olinda Silvano, “kené synthesizes a vision of the world, of the community’s aesthetic and wisdom, its traditions and roots through time. It is also a source of information about our origins and the close bonds between our people and our lands.” Ayahuasca is a drink used by many Indigenous peoples of the Amazons in the territory now known as Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. For the Shipibo-Konibo people, ayahuasca induces the vision of energy patterns and geometric designs that gives rise to kené. The plant is shaped like a tangled rope or cord that they identify with Ronin, the cosmic serpent – the primordial being –, in whose skin (the serpent’s skin) all the potential designs of the universe can be seen.

Centro Amazónico de Antropología y Aplicación Práctica [Amazonian Center of Anthropology and Practical Application]

Sandra Serrano Finetti, textile researcher and clothing designer

Gala Berger, Curatorial Associate