Saturday, 6 February 2010

Guatil or Jagua... and my trip cancelled!

Ha! So you weren't expecting to hear from me today, huh? I cancelled my trip to San Jose. I slept very badly, dreaming about some damned blocked toilet, of all things... only to wake up and discover that I have serious stomach issues today! So, whilst it's kind of ironic to be cancelling a doctors' appointment on the basis of being sick (ironic, or just plain wierd!), it didn't seem like a good idea to be heading off on an 8 hour road journey under these circumstances (and I know you know what I mean!). So, not feeeling that great today. My belly hurts and I feel hot(ter) and nauseous. But, HEY! I'm happy and I get to stay at home. Which means I get to carry on blogging! :))) and stitching! :))) etc.!:)))

I promised I was going to tell you about Genipa americana (Rubiaceae), locally known as "Jagua" or "Guatil".

This is one of those truly miraculous plants, the fruits of which have been used by indigenous people here in Costa Rica (and elsewhere in tropical America) for hundreds of years. And more about that in a moment. I've been hoping to get my hands on some and try it out for myself for ages. So you can imagine how delighted I was when Reinaldo came back from the field on Thursday with several fruits from this plant (which you can see in my previous post).

Here's a photo of the flower of this species, which not too many people can claim to have seen! But you now can!

Fabulous flowers, aren't they? The image was taken by Reinaldo (c). Apart from being the region's botanical expert, he is also known (and published!) for his amazing plant (taxonomical) photography, which means that I have access to a library of 60,000+ plant images. And if that lot doesn't provide me with any creative inspiration, well... let's face it, nothing will!!!

Remember that book about Pre-columbian printing stamps that I showed you in an earlier post entotled The Seals of Time? Well, inside it discusses this plant, saying,

"... Today, some indigenous groups such as the Embera of Panama and Columbia, use a blacl colored pigment that is extracted from the fruit of a Guatil or Jagua (Genipa americana), with which they make body decorations".

Ah... tattoos, then! When you look at certain ceramics of the Pre-Columbian period, you can see that the figures are often decorated. I always thought that was just a way of decorating the ceramic itself. But, no! This actually is showing us how the people would have appeared, doning these non-permanant tattoos made from natural pigments. including from G. americana.

The following are images of Pre-columbian ceramics that I snapped recently, in the Pre-columbian Gold and Jade museums in San Jose (we're in Costa Rica, incase you didn't already know).

A face vase... with human teeth!

Seated female figure and pots.

Her nextdoor neighbor.

A high-ranking female, with jaguar-type tattoos.

A shy standing figure.

Nilo, studying an exhibit with his Grandma, my Mother-In-Law, the very lovely Mercedes Francisca.

Who is definately the Cacique!... or, at least, of indigenous origin.

And here are some examples of the stamps that were used by the Pre-columbians, to decorate their bodies, as well as other surfaces.

WOW! This stuff just blows me away!!!

So... back to the dye pot...

I have started a small jar of guatil dye, with three small pieces of rolled and folded cotton. When I first put the seeds into the boiling water in the jar they and the water looked like this.

A few moments later, it looked like this.

After a while longer, it looked like this. Not what I call black. More of an indigo-purple. And OMG it really does stain skin! So, if I don't get good results from this, I'm giving up!

Half a fruit pressed onto calico.

It reminded me of this... coming next!!!!


arlee said...

i've often wondered if juicy areas have juicier native dye plants :}

Puddleduck said...

Sorry you're not feeling well... (sounds like you're going to enjoy staying home and playing though!)
Those pre-Columbian stamps are amazing! and I love the figurines too. I wanted to be an archaeologist when I was a teenager...anything old or ancient still has some sort of pull on me... and I often think 'what if I had studied it...?'
Can't wait to see the results of your dyeing!
Get better soon...

Catherine V. Bainbridge said...

Arlee... yes they do, so when are you coming?

Thanks so much Puddleduck (what is your real name?) How funny, I used to want to do that too. I spent many a happy afternoon, with a bowl of water on the living room carpet scrubbing up the finds from my garndmother's back yard. Broken china, sections of old clay pipes, one of which had a clawed bowl! So I know what you mean. It sometimes makes the hair on my neck stand on end!

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