Traditional Jagua

Jagua Geographical Roots

Genipa Americana is known by many different names throughout the many different regions of Central and South America. Some
of the most popular names are:

Jagua – Peru, Columbia, Equador, Panama, Honduras, Puerto Rico
Caruto – Venezuela, Puerto Rico
Huito – Peru, Columbia
Jenipapo – Brazil, Columbia
Genipa – French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico

Click Here for more local names for Genipa Americana

Jagua fruits destined for body adornment are harvested when they are unripe and very firm. Traditionally the seeds from the
fruit are ground up and the liquid is then used to paint directly onto the skin. The exact process varies from place to
place, sometimes the juice is heated, so that some of the liquid evaporates making the remaining liquid thicker and so
easier to paint with.

The fruiting trees grow abundantly throughout Central & South America. Like many trees in Amazonia, the Jagua tree bears
fruit on a continuous cycle, so there is usually a fruiting tree nearby. However there are also main seasons where the
fruits are abundant – this season varies from region to region, for example the main season in Peru finishes in April/May
when the rains start, whereas in some parts of Brazil, the main season is in June.

Traditional Jagua Tattoos are applied for lots of different reasons: traditional patterns are applied for ceremonial and
festive occasions, protection from sunburn and insects such as sandflies. Different indigenous peoples incorporate specific
patterns into their designs to reflect significant aspects of their culture. Below is an extract from a report looking at
some of the traditional aspects of life of the Kadiwéu people. The entire document is a very interesting read, to view it
please Click Here, the
report is in Portuguese, so you may have to use a translation site to read the entire document.

The Kadiwéu tattooing
In the case of the Kadiwéu, inhabitants of a vast area in Murtinho Port, in the border with Paraguay, the main ability is
the art of the corporal painting and the ceramics that enchanted some explorers and researchers, as Italian Guido Boggiani,
in the end of the century XIX and the etnólogo Claude Lévi-Strauss in the decade of 30. Darcy Ribeiro, that lived enters
the Kadiwéu in the decade of 40, classified the variety of styles of the abstract drawings and the painting standards of
face and body of the Kadiwéu as “the most elaborated artistic manifestation of the American indians”.

Ramona Soares
The indian Kadiwéu Ramona Soares drawing with jenipapo,
in the city of Bodoquena-MS. Photo: Guto Pascoal.

The drawings are made until today by the women, but the great artists are the women oldest, who had passed of the 60 years.
The Kadiwéu, Ramona Soares, 62 years, lives in the city of Bodoquena, next to the reserve, and conserves the knowledge of
the refined art of the standards of the traditional drawings. It also knows the symbolism of each drawing, the type of
standard for each family and different reasons to be drawn in each part of the body.

Ramona says that the great tracers are the indians oldest. “now they do not practise in such a way as in my time”, it affirms.
Therefore, the quality of the drawings is decaying and very of the technique it is if losing. Today, the Kadiwéu if only
paints in the days of party, but the art of ceramics is carried through for venda is of the village.

So, it appears that in some places the traditional art of Jagua painting is not as popular as it once was, whereas in other
areas of Amazonia the art form is flourishing. It seems that in the areas that are most exposed to ‘Western Culture’ the
tradition of Jagua Body Painting is dying out. Whereas the more remote communities of Amazonia still practise Jagua Body
Painting alongside all their other traditional crafts.

Hopefully, once Jagua Tattooing becomes popular in Western Youth Culture there will be a renewed interest in the
traditional art form of Jagua Tattooing in the regions where it is dying out today. Much like what has happened in the big
cities throughout The Middle East, North Africa and parts of India & Pakistan in recent years with henna body art. The
young women living in the modern westernised cities had begun to turn away from the traditional art of henna application,
until recently when the Western Fashion World embraced the art of Henna Tattooing, which of course filtered right back
through to making traditional body art popular again!