Located near the Pacific coast in the lowlands of the Cauca department, the Afro Colombian community of Timbiquí is known for its many artisans and skilled musicians. The hard wood of the chontó tree are carved into the soft-sounding keys of the marimba, known locally as the “piano of the jungle.”
From the bark and tree fibre, women of the town weave elaborate hats. Timbiquí’s connection to the outside world starts with the Spanish conquest when thousands of African slaves were put to work the local gold deposits. For centuries, the human trafficking and exploitation of local resources continued unabated. In the early twentieth century, several U.S. and British mining companies set up operations along the Timbiquí River and began extracting the gold and platinum to be found in the swamps of the Pacific litoral.
Putting thousands of locals to work the riverbanks, the mining entities created their own segregated enclave known as ‘Andagoyita.’ Popular protests erupted in the 1970’s over working conditions and the foreign-based mining companies were forced to nationalize or move out. Despite a turbulent past, the peoples of Timbiquí stand proud in the face of change and thanks to their heritage and contributions to Colombian culture, the region is now a showcase of rich musical tradition and craftsmanship.