Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tatting Up In Panama


Deep in the Panamanian rain forest, on the shores of the Chagres River, an Embera Indian Village welcomes visitors interested in learning about their centuries-old traditions. We had traveled in a hand-carved canoe,  and scaled makeshift bridges to reach the village. Before I entered into the village's circle of thatched roof huts and glimpsed the laughing children and heard the flute trills of their instruments, I knew that I wanted to connect with the Embera.


After a demonstration of cooking, plant medicine and weaving techniques, I requested a traditional tattoo. A village's elder was enlisted to do the honor for me. The Embera paint their bodies with the juice of the jagua plant. The black etchings are semi-permanent tattoos that last up to 3 weeks. The elder wiped the sunscreen off my arm and pressed sharply into my skin with the tip of a bamboo stick. He slowly created my design, scrawling the lines carefully.


Each symbol has a specific meaning and I was startled to learn that mine represented a house or home. At that point, I had been displaced from my home by a fire and was struggling to adjust to the moves and changes that would last for eight months. My tattoo remained on my arm for a full month, reminding me of  Panama's proud traditions and that I would eventually return to my home.

5 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

oh, how awesome!

TexWisGirl said...

(and i'm sorry about the fire and displacement.)

Fly Girl said...

Tex, thanks! It's all good, I'm back home now and will be writing about what I learned from my experience of being displaced.

Andrew said...

What an adventure and learning experience, Rosalind. So sorry to hear about the fire.

Fly Girl said...

Andrew, thanks, it really was a learning experience and I'm stronger for it.