People and peatlands

Harvesting Mauritia palm shoots

Indigenous Urarina women harvest the young shoots from Mauritia flexuosa palms growing in a peatland palm swamp close to their village. Palm-fibre textiles are synonymous with Urarina identity. The textiles have social and monetary value, are central to transmission of knowledge between generations and, most notably, are central to women’s identity and their role in the home and community. The unfurled palm fronds from young trees are cut from the growing point of the Mauritia palm using a machete. Unsurprisingly, the women often choose younger palms, so the leaves are more accessible from the ground. These are the basic raw material from which women extract, spin, dye and weave fibres and textiles. This is done in the driest season of the year, which even so involves wading to access raw materials, which many women do barefoot – unlike the researchers accompanying them. 

Photo credit: Lydia Cole