Dressed for the dance

After months of intensive planning and several trips to the eastern most fringes of Colombia, British photographer Piers Calvert reached the hamlet of Puerto Cordoba nestled along the banks of the lower Caquetá River.
Wanting to document how body painting is still used by certain indigenous tribes, especially for ceremonial gatherings and rituals, Piers Calvert was granted access from tribal leaders of the Yucuna and Tanimuca to capture the rarely seen Baile del Chontaduro and which is celebrated every February in the heart of the Colombian Amazon.
Using a palette of organic and earthy colours, Calvert’s portraits are a celebration of the beauty and diversity of Colombia’s many indigenous groups.
The photographic record of Colombia’s indigenous groups is limited and a fifty year-long internal conflict has made documenting certain indigenous groups even very difficult. “The only photographers to spend much time in the Amazonas, Vaupés or Guaviare in recent decades have been conflict photographers, and they have been covering just that,” stated Piers and whose pictures were exhibited recently at the Colombian Consulate in London and entitled: The Way We Are Now.
Inspired by the expeditions of the ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes in the 1950s and a unique Black and White image captured by British explorer Thomas Whiffen in 1908 of painted Okaina girls in the Colombian Amazon, Pier’s images are a beautiful testament to the intricate skills of indigenous body art and ceremonial attire which is both captivating as it is haunting.


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