Wild You Handmade is approaching its first birthday as an official business. Last year came with a lot of milestones, and we want to continue that growth into 2022. We’re not talking about just growth in a traditional sense of more sales… but an emotional growth where we listen more, learn more, and share more about the cultures of the artisans we work with. After lots of thought on how to start the new year off right, I thought it was most appropriate to take a look at some of the vibrant symbolism that you find in the beaded jewelry made by Inga Awaska.
Inga Awaska is led by Luz Maria Tisoy and Nestor Jacanamijoy, Inga artisans from the department of Putumayo in the southern part of Colombia, close to the Ecuadorian border. A husband and wife team, Nestor envisions the designs and Luz María gives them life with stunning colors. Currently they employ 15 women and a few men to help elaborate these unique pieces of art in the form of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.
Nestor’s brother, Benjamin Jacanamijoy, has put together a rich collection of history, stories, and designs from Inga culture into a book called “El Chumbe Inga”. The chumbe is a ceremonial belt worn by Inga women to protect the womb. Each chumbe tells a story with the symbols that represent the earth and the creatures that inhabit it. I’m telling you this because the symbols you find in the bead work from Inga Awaska came from the chumbe, and I’m going to share some of the symbols from this book now.
All descriptions in bold have been translated to English from the original Spanish text from “El Chumbe Inga” by Benjamin Jacanamijoy Tisoy. Photos of the symbols also come from Jacanamijoy's book. Both are being used with his permission.
All words in italics are from the Inga language.
(Everything in parantheses are my additions for easier understanding.)
Suyu Kallarij - Lugar del que comienza - The place from which it begins
The rhombus is denominated Uigsa: Womb, which symbolizes a Suyu: Place. So, Uigsa Suyu: Place of the womb or Suyu Kallarij: place from which it begins, is the place where life or the world begins, the place of the four cardinal points.
Though we’ve named it Pluma, or feather, the Plumas and Plumitas earrings also have this rhombus symbol at the top of the design. This design is seen across many indigenous cultures in the Americas. Luz María has told us that the diamond shape at the top represents Suyu Kallarij for them.
Samai - Aliento, conocimiento, espiritu - Breath, Knowledge, Spirit
It’s the “Power of the Word” that is in the heart of the “Elders” and from there it comes out converting into Samai: breath or spirit, a word of wisdom or knowledge, that guides the history of future generations. Samai or breath of the spirit is, then, a spiritual form of communication between all beings that coexist in the universe.
You’ll find this symbol in the Samay earrings.
Inti - Sol - Sun
It’s the symbol of the creator, identifies the Valley of Sibundoy as the Valley of the Sun; it represents the power and the authority of the sinchis; traditional medics and the taita governor of the council. Ingas are descendants of the Sons of the Sun, who were born at the moment when the sacred vine of Yajé (also known in Perú as Ayahuasca) fertilized the Andaki flower (Angel Trumpet Plant) in the beginning of time and knowledge.
I also found this wonderful illustration along with a similiar version of this story online.
Inti is everywhere in the bracelets! That’s why our bangle bracelet is named Inti and the skinny bracelets with this symbol are Solecito (little sun in Spanish).
If you are interested in getting a copy of “El Chumbe Inga” you can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, we'll ordered a few more from the author to bring to the US in March! Si ustede vive en Colombia lo puede pedir directamente con el autor escribiendo a email@example.com. You can also follow Benjamin on Instagram and check out this amazing mandala art.
We also encourage you to follow Inga Awaska! Let us know if you’d like us to get anything different from them that we don’t currently have. (Pshhh - there are some wonderful beaded bags!).
Thanks for taking the time to learn more about Inga Symbolism. You can find the collection of Inga Beaded Jewelry here.