Artist Documented Secrets of Ayahuasca as Sounds and Textile Art

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Detail of a Shipibo tapestry motif translated from an icaro on a plant called marosa. All images are courtesy of the artist.

The Shipibo people of the Amazon rainforest of Peru use the hallucinogenic brew, ayahuasca, for ceremonial purposes, but sound artist Tanya Harris documents what ayahuasca reveals through textile design and sound. Before becoming interested in Shipibo culture, Harris studied at Central Saint Martins in London, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in textile design and a master’s degree in future of materials. Harris focused on demonstrating cymatics, that is, when sound vibrations cause patterns to emerge in liquids or particles. In the video titled Sound vibrates matter, it documents the geometric shapes created by a white, powdery substance placed on an ordinary loudspeaker. “It reveals a remarkable phenomenon – the inherent responsiveness of matter to sound, and inspires a deep recognition that we too are part of this intricate and intricate vibrational matrix,” says Harris.

“As I approached my final year of masters, I discovered the Shipibo tribe, who translate their songs into colorful geometric patterns,” Harris told The Creators Project. She researched ayahuasca retreats and decided to spend a month at the Path of Light Temple retreat, which is run by the Shipibo. “I bought a handy Zoom Q2HD video recorder before my trip because I knew the jungle would be full of interesting sounds,” says Harris.

During an ayahuasca ceremony with a shaman named Sulmira, Harris spotted an interesting tapestry. Harris asked about the meaning of the tapestry and Sulmira told him about a custom whereby a Shipibo shaman lives for months in isolation and ingests different plants in order to connect with the plant spirits. According to Sulmira, each plant has a different personality, just like people. Once a plant is ingested, the shaman can be inspired to write a song. These songs, called icaros, are then used in healing ceremonies, and finally translated into geometric patterns to adorn the tapestries with their messages.

The plant ingested by the shaman Shipibo Sulmira.

“During one of my last ceremonies, I learned from ayahuasca that I would ask Sulmira if I could record her singing a particular song and get her the translation of the geometric tapestry of the song, ”says Harris. So, using his handy video recorder, Harris carefully recorded Sulmira’s icaro on a plant called marosa.

A Shipibo tapestry with a motif based on a song about the marosa.

Viewed side by side, there are striking visual similarities between the shapes created by Harris’ cymatic patterns and the designs created by the Shipibo as illustrations for their songs. For Harris, it is simply proof that “sound is a primary creative force”. “Nothing is really solid,” says Harris, “Everything vibrates. “

Harris describes the experience of hearing Sulmira’s icaro, saying that it “sings to you as if you are a window to be broken.”

You can keep an eye and an ear for Harris’ work on his website.

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