Fuzzy Cat Mask by weaver Felicinda Guaynora.

Woven shaman masks are created by the Embera people of Panama. They share similar cultural traditions and weaving artistry as their neighboring Wounaan tribe. Embera shamans (called jaibana) use figures and visages to be used in their healing and cleansing ceremonies. The masks and animal images are assembled around the hut where a curing ritual takes place.

Mid-sized masks take around 5 days each to weave. They are woven by a single artist out of shredded palm colored with all-vegetal dyes. Stitched together using a needle and shredded palm fronds dyed a complimentary color. She weaves her masks out of shredded palm in the traditional manner, using bundles of palm to create a 3-D structure. Then coming in from the outside she weaves the colored palm strands around the outside of the cheeks, face, eyes and finally neck, to create a face for the animal.

Fuzzy looking parts are created by weaving thick colored palms once through from front to back, leaving the strands long and wide. Once enough strands have been pulled through and cut off at long lengths from the outside the weaver will ‘shred’ the thick strands using a needle. Finally, the long fuzzy parts are trimmed from the outside to create an even length all around the mask head.