Wounaan Indians of the Darien Rainforest, in Panama, are the finest weavers in the world.  Using  the Chunga palm and other plant materials, they make the most beautiful and intricate basketry, depicting plants and animals, fish and flowers, insects and geometric patterns. They translate their belief in the harmony in nature by transforming organic materials into baskets. They see "spirit" and "nature" as inseparable. 

Ever since Wounaan basketry took the giant leap from depicting simple, crude motifs to the pervasive use of intricate cultural designs enveloping virtually all available space, weavers have created mental mazes for themselves. Indeed, many basket designs are today so complex and intertwined that keeping the stitch-by-stitch ramblings of birds, flowers, butterflies & geometrics in check is a daunting task. Some rainforest cacophonies, while awesome and desirable for their sheer exhaustive execution and exhilarating, wild abandon, may leave a few collectors whose passion is clarity reeling for a breath of fresh air.

According to Wounaan tradition, Hösig Di must be stitched from fine filaments of “chunga,” the black palm Astrocaryum standleyanum. The strong core material is “naguala,” the same small palm used for Panamá hats. Dyes include roots, berries, herbs, leaves and even black, silt-fine river mud.  The distinctive black and white markings of orca, the steely grey of dolphin, the gun-metal blue of marlin, the blood red of scarlet macaw, the emerald of small parrots are all possible with natural vegetal dyes.  Weavers often raise the most commonly used vegetal dye plants in small garden plots behind their huts. But locating chunga requires forays ever deeper into the rainforest.

Today, most fine Hösig Di are created with many more than 30 stitches to the inch.  A few exquisite small works in our collection tested their weavers’ perseverance at 100-plus stitches to the inch.  While these are truly inspiring, working precision, micro-fine stitches around a larger basket and its correspondingly thicker coil also is an achievement to be lauded.