WOUNAAN - EMBERÁ
The Wounaan, with an estimated population of 15,000, inhabit the Darien rainforest of Panamá. This tribe, along with the Emberá tribe, have traditionally lived in the Chocó Bioregion, the tropical rainforest lowlands on the Pacific Coast of Panamá, Colombia and northern Ecuador. They migrated from the Choco province of Colombia in the late 18th century. Both the Emberá and the Wounaan have a similar river basin culture.
The Wounaan people number about 2,600 and also live in the Darien rainforest. In 1983 the government of Panamá recognized the Comarca Emberá-Drua, a semi-autonomous Indigenous territory for both tribes. This territory overlaps the Darien National Park and Biosphere Reserve.
Basket weaving is a traditional art form that has been reborn among the Wounan women. It provides a crucial source of income to villagers. They produce baskets of all sizes for all price ranges. The technique is time-consuming. They coil long bundles of fibers and wrapped them with dyed fibers at intervals that create geometric patterns as the basket grows outwards.
The baskets are all handwoven using natural fibers found in the forest. Several types of palm fibers are used. The pigments used to produce colors are also all natural and stem from various plants and earth which they gather in the jungle or grow in their gardens. The motifs for the baskets portray life in the village, local animals, insects, birds, plants, or just geometric patterns at the whim of the weaver. Seldom, if ever, are two baskets alike. Without a doubt, the creations of the Wounaan Indians are considered to be the finest baskets in the world today.