The Penare Indians (Panare, Panari, Abira, Eye) live in the Caicaro De Orinoco basin of the Cuchivero River, in Bolivar State. Comprised of over 1,200 members located in over twenty villages spread out throughout the region, two major groups of the Penare exist currently, located in the jungles and highlands of Western Guiana. These mountainous and tropical forest dwelling tribes are nearly all monolingual. Each village consists of up to thirty members, each ruled by a single Chief. They are hunter gatherers but do take in part in farming small garden plots in the center of each village.
The Penare (Pah-nah-ree) Indian tribes are native to the vast Amazon basin area of modern Venezuela. A very traditional people, the Penare still live in the same thatched huts located on river banks that their people have lived in for countless centuries. They are one of the few Amazon Indian tribes that are still completely free to live and dress in their traditional fashion. The men of the Penare wear the loin clothes that they have become the standard dress for the tribe over hundreds of years. These loin clothes are most often dyed red from the juices of the Onoto berry which is also native to the region. Blue and white beads worn around the upper arms, knees and ankles are also a common sight amongst the men and boys of the Penare.
The women of the tribe wear over sized versions of these necklaces, as well as long lengths of dyed cloth which act as skirts. Women of the Penare tribe are forbidden to learn Spanish, or any other language but that which is native to the Penare. On the rare occasion they are allowed to converse with outsiders to the tribe, Penare women must speak through a male interpreter even if the visitor speaks the native tongue. While this tradition may seem horribly sexist to outsiders, it is one of the contributing factors to the tribes continuing success in keeping its ancient culture alive and well. It is said amongst the tribes of the Amazon basin that once a people begins to speak Spanish, their culture will disappear within twenty five years time. Because the women of the Penare are the only tribal members allowed to pass down the stories and myths of their people, this has allowed them to remain free from outside influence to a certain degree.
The traditional crafts of the tribe are a vital part of what keeps the Penare tribe successful in modern times. They are well known in the area for the amazing bead work that they do, often making a large variety of different sized beaded necklaces. They also utilize other pieces found in their natural habitat to make these famous necklaces, such as seeds, bones and Venezuelan coins.
These necklaces by the Penare Indians are made of beads with some featuring teeth or nails of rainforest animals such as tapir, monkeys, or caiman. The necklaces hang from 12″ to 14″ in length.
This back pack is hand made of palm by the Penare Indians. Designed to wear on a man’s back, it is strung with hand made fiber to hold and carry home game. Approximately 19″ tall, 11″ wide and 6 1/2″ deep.
The Penare are also known for their fantastic basket weaving abilities, making some of the finest tribal baskets in the entire Amazon basin area. These flat baskets called “wapa” are woven only by the Penare men. Geometric and animal figures woven into the design denote magical aspects or potential powers. Traditionally the men of the tribe create the baskets, while the women make the jewelry and create the clothing for the tribe.
|Monkey motif – 14 3/4″ in diameter.||Toad motif – 14 3/4″ in diameter.|
|Scorpion and dog motif – 14 3/4″ in diameter.||Lizard motif – 14 3/4″ in diameter.|
|Frog motif – 17″ in diameter.||Monkey motif – 14″ in diameter.|
These traditional Penare loincloths are hand woven of natural cotton and dyed with onoto to give them the reddish color. These loin cloths are becoming more and more rare.