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Piro Designs: Painting as Meaningful Action in an Amazonian Lived World

Peter Gow
The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Vol. 5, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 229-246
DOI: 10.2307/2660695
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2660695
Page Count: 18
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Piro Designs: Painting as Meaningful Action in an Amazonian Lived World
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Abstract

Starting from the problems of describing non-Western visual aesthetic systems ethnographically, this article provides a basic account of yonata, painting with design, among the Piro people of the Bajo Urubamba river in Eastern Peru. Yonata, and its product yonchi, `design', is the Piro variant of the Amazonian practice of painting surfaces with designs of `geometric' type. Placing this practice in the context of the Piro lived world, I argue that painting with design encodes the ideal life trajectory of a Piro woman. For Piro people, design is beautiful, and through design women demonstrate the success of their own lives as beauty on the bodies of others and certain material objects. In the conclusion, I extend the analysis presented here to Australian Aboriginal and Melanesian cases, and to the Western tradition.

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