Monkey demon bark cloth mask

Tukuna Bark Cloth Collection from Southeastern Colombia

The Tukuna Bark Cloth collection consists of 225 cloth paintings, masks and costumes from the Tukuna region of Southeastern Colombia. Originally compiled in 1970 by graduate student Charles E. Bolian for the University's Department of Anthropology, this is one of the largest Tukuna cloth collections in the world.

Obtaining the Collection

The Tukuna people first came to the attention of the University of Illinois Department of Anthropology through field work conducted by Dr. Donald W. Lathrap in the Ucayali Region of Peru in 1967. Charles E. Bolian then conducted field work in the Tukuna region of the Amazon Basin in 1970-1971. During that period, he received funding from the University to purchase bark cloth paintings, bark cloth costumes related to the girl's puberty ceremonies called Moca Nova or peleacon, and also other material culture items of the Tukuna.

This collection is one component of the Laboratory of Anthropology collections transferred to Spurlock in 2000.

Making Bark Cloth

Tukuna bark cloth is made by pounding together the inner layers of bark of the Sapucaia (Ficus) tree. The designs are painted with vegetable dyes, although sometimes the black pigment came from battery carbon. The textiles signify a connection between the Tukuna people, their enviroment, and the influence of outside peoples on that environment. Some of the paintings made for sale to tourists contain a mix of traditional and contemporary designs.

Notable Objects