In the Amazon rainforest community of Arara, Colombia, the indigenous Tikuna people practice an ancient coming-of-age ceremony known as the Pelazón through which girls entering puberty are introduced into adult society. The girls who choose to go through the ceremony are ritually stripped of all their hair (cabello) to symbolize the physical changes that come with womanhood. The entire tribe celebrates this transformation during the Fiesta de la Pelazón, which involves feasting, drinking, and dancing. Traditional celebratory outfits crafted from a natural fiber called yanchama, decorated with geometric symbols significant to the Tikuna, are worn by participants. Special guests may wear masks and other bodily adornments, imitating rainforest animals including leopards, toucans, and monkeys. Muñecos de la Pelazón (Pelazón dolls) are representations of this important ritual.
Traditionally, men have been in charge of crafting the dolls, but today women, like Antonila Ramos Bautista, are involved. She guides the doll’s designs: their sizes, the characters they depict, and the colors that will be used. Families like hers work together, collecting and preparing materials for this artistic tradition. The body of the doll is carved from balsa wood. Then its clothing made from yanchama is added. Each unique, hand-crafted doll is painted using natural pigments—often black, white, red, and yellow—to depict ancestral and anthropomorphic characters.
Antonila will be representing the Arara community at the International Folk Art Market, bringing with her Muñecos de la Pelazón. Her entrepreneurial spirit and involvement in tourism and education has led to acknowledgement and appreciation for the craftsmanship and customs of her community. Selling their unique cultural artworks provides the group with income to improve their quality of life.