Warao Baskets, Orinoco Delta, Venezuela
The Warao people live in the Orinoco Delta, where the waters rise and fall with the tides twice a day. My friend Carol Zuckert and I stayed at Campamento Boca de Tigre in Isla Tigre. To get there requires at least an hour by speed boat as the waterway is the only way.
The Campamento Boca de Tigre is an hour and a half by boat from the small town of San Jose de Buja. Once there you find a bit of paradise. Swaying in our hammocks, we watch the Orinoco waters rise and fall with the tides.
The Warao people live in thatched huts raised on stilts above the water to avoid flooding. The huts have no walls as the weather is extremely hot and humid. Everything is open air.
As we drift by a cluster of huts, I buy a hammock from the Warao people whose only beds are the hammocks hanging in their open air thatched huts. That hammock has rocked me through several spring and summer seasons back home in California. Its natural fiber wraps around me like a cocoon, and the evocative scent of its moriche palm fiber brings me back to the Orinoco.
The women weave both hammocks and baskets from the fiber of the moriche palm trees that grow in the surrounding jungle. This tall, rounded-crown plant’s scientific name is “Mauritia flexuosa linn,” known as the “tree of life” or “árbol de la vida” in Spanish. It provides the Warao with much of the material they need for sustenance. They use the fiber for houses, hammocks, food, fishing, medicine and basketry. The moriche worm that lives in the palm tree is a rich source of protein.
A Warao girl spins the moriche palm fiber on her knee. Her movements are quick and efficient, refined by generations of ancestors who have perfected the process.
Warao women bring their baskets to the Campimento Boca de Tigre where they can sell their work. The dealer purchases only the finest work to keep the quality of crafts high.
Boats are important to the Warao, as their main means of transportation through the watery byways of the Orinoco. Here children learn to swim before walking. You can find more about the Warao at Arte-Amazonia.