Private Air, Luxury Homes editor features Wounaan Rainforest Baskets
Carefully made in the local communities of Panama’s exotic Darién rainforest, handcrafted Wounaan Hösig Di baskets are appreciated for their colorful design, historical undertones and unique artistry. Woven from the youngest fibers of native Chunga and Naguala palms—plants that are so closely-linked to Wounaan tradition that anything woven from them are believed to possess an inherent spiritual quality—each basket takes months, or even years, to complete. Today, these rare commodities, once made solely for local storage or transport, have become museum-quality works of art sold around the world for upwards of $30,000.
According to collectors, Wounaan baskets made before the 1980s were very plain—completely different from the intricate, colorful patterns we see them in today. In fact, it wasn’t until the past few decades that the indigenous peoples behind the creations started incorporating pictorial and geometric motifs on the Hösig Di. While pictorial baskets include rainforest motifs like local flora, plants, land animals and even birds, those made with geometric patterns—like expanding and contracting lines, zigzags, circles and more—contain traditional body-painting designs based on cultural influences. Sewn by hand, these baskets are made from a process of coil construction and silk stitch, with the fibers in each dyed from the seeds, roots, berries, fruits, flowers and other natural sources of color; ultimately creating an intricate range of colors and complexities to help make the baskets appear multi-dimensional.
A centuries-old tradition passed down through generations of women in Wounaan culture, these baskets can now be found in prestigious galleries, local art stores and prominent museums across the globe. In addition to their unique contribution to the art world, Hösig Di baskets have also proven to be a great benefit to Panama’s economy. With the emphasis that country places on tradition and education, over time, a strong community of master weavers have come together solely to give artists the knowledge they need to create and sell their works according to international standards. Once part of a struggling community of indigenous peoples, notable artists of this craft have been able to use these baskets as a viable financial resource—not only creating a steady income for their own families, but improving the basic standard of living for the community as a whole. As a result, this trade has helped preserve the Wounaan culture, and furthermore, has raised the community support necessary to nurture even more master artists in the future.
Creating handcrafted products that have changed the face of local art, the Wounaan Indians have been praised by gallery owners across North America and Europe as originators of fine art. Today, their baskets portray a perfect combination of history and creativity—and most importantly, they tell the story of an indigenous people who used their skills to save a community.
Jetset Magazine’s feature: The Essentials of Collecting One-of-a-Kind Gems (excerpt)
For lovers of contemporary art, this basketry is unequalled. Collectors, however, may wonder about the long-term value of such a collection, London and Sydney broker of fine and decorative arts, Nicholas Forrest, art market analyst, art critic and author of artmarketingblog.com, and guest lecturer at Sotheby’s institute in Singapore, writes: “Emerging contemporary artists work met with the highest level of success at the 2009 Frieze Art Fair in London.” This art form is certainly not a fad. According to Forrest, “An artwork will always have a value, and if chosen correctly, should not go down in value over the long-term, with the worst-case scenario of the artwork holding its value for a period of time.”
Art speaks to the collector, and the pieces offered by [Rainforest Baskets] have rich stories to tell. An experienced collector will guide beginners t start with what they love. For many, they love the history hand-woven baskets convey. Along with that history comes a future. Financial advisors now advise that now as much as 15% of their affluent clients portfolio should comprise “hard, transportable assets.” A collection of beautiful pieces that will be enjoyed for generations to come is the foundation of any quality art collection, whether in a home or in a famous gallery.
Frances McQueeney-Jones Mascoco praises Rainforest Baskets in Affluent Page Magazine
“For centuries, women of the Wounaan and Emberá tribes have produced baskets using methods passed from generation to generation. Initially a purely utilitarian endeavor for storage or transport, these baskets evolved in the late 20th century into museum-quality works of art. That evolution is itself a process of interest, and the results are dazzling.”
Author, Ysabel de La Rosa of Private Clubs Magazine interviews Rainforest Baskets on “Art as Investment.”
Rainforest Baskets speaks out about investing in art. “When we buy the best art we can afford, the prices of these works hold up better even in down markets.” it notes. “Considering art as part of one’s investment portfolio makes perfect sense. Transportable assets help mitigate the swings of market corrections . . . as a hedge against inflation.”
Southwest Art Editor, Kristin Bucher discovers “amazing” Rainforest Baskets
“Learning about the Wounaan weavers brought a whole new dimension to my appreciation of the baskets . . . Understanding more of the background brought a stronger connection and a fuller sense of wonder, and this knowledge made all the difference in looking at art.”