Native Planet > Indigenous Cultures > Belize Maya > Weaving

KEKCHI and MAYAN CULTURE

Weaving Baskets
with Jippi Jappa Palms

The Kekchi and Mopan Mayan techniques of Blue Creek (Toledo District, Belize)

PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT BY JEAN-PHILIPPE SOULÉ 1999

 

Plant Harvesting and Preparation

The Jippi Jappa palm grows wild in the rainforest and often in abandoned fields. The shoots and flowers are edible and the young palms can be used as a material to be woven into beautiful baskets. Valentina, an elderly Mopan Mayan woman from Blue Creek showed us the full preparation and weaving process. The young palm frond is first stripped of its central core. Then with the help of a needle, it is cut into thin strips along its length. Once the strips are thin enough to fit through a needle head, the palm is boiled for 15 minutes, then dried in the sun for 2 to 3 days.

Weaving Technique

Valentina held a bundle of fibers (maybe 6 to 8) tightly together and twisted another around the outside of the bundle. Once she produced a few inches of rope-like covered bundle, she began to start making a tight coil.   She then used one line and a needle to sew a loop anchoring the outer coil to the inside every quarter of an inch. She kept repeating the process and adding to the coil until she got the desired shape and size for the bottom of her basket. Then she brought up the edges by tightly sewing the next coils closer together and vertical. She made a beautiful basket which was so tightly woven you would think it could hold water. The lid, created separately, matched perfectly the basket, and was snug enough that it wouldn't fall off when turned upside-down. It was truly masterful weaving. Valentina finished by exhibiting some of her other art including embroidery (generally sewed onto blouses), bracelets, rings and necklaces made from various natural plants and woods from the rainforest.

Photos

Jippi Jappa Palm  ;  Using Young Palms  ;  Stripping the palm   ;  Boiling the palm  ;  Drying the palm  ;  Starting the Weaving  ;  The basket takes shape  ;  Craft display

 

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