Xapiri – Amazonian Geometrics

For the latest Xapiri blog, we explore the fascinating, beautiful and sometimes hypnotising world of the geometric patterns widely used in Amazonian indigenous culture. Geometric designs can be seen in many places, from body painting, basketry, textiles, ceramics, clothing and the rainforest itself.

‘There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.’ – Pythagoras

To the untrained eye these stylised patterns may appear as just simple decoration but they in fact represent the mythology of the jungle and play an important role in tribal life and tradition.

For the indigenous people, these designs are an art form abundant in meaning, which we feel are comparable to many art forms of the western world, being paintings or sculpture.

Often, the patterns are representations of the flora and fauna from within the jungle they live, where many elements can be seen; the jaguar and its spots, snakes such as the anaconda and other reptilian like the caiman, monkeys and frogs amongst others.

Tortoiseshell design by the Assurini do Xingu indigenous people of Brazil:


Staying with the powerful graphics of the Assurini do Xingu people, please see the short video below which illustrates the link from the design to the original jungle inspiration:

The above designs can often be seen painted on the bodies of the tribal members (women, men and children are all included), normally during a time of ritual. The body paintings differ significantly from tribe to tribe and are an important factor allowing each ethnic group to display their individual identity. The painting itself is much more than just an ornamental pursuit, it is an intensely important mean of social bonding. The intimacy of the painting process and the designs picked by the artist all create a sense of belonging, identity and tribal kinship.

A child from the Kayapó tribe of Brazil receiving her body paint. Photo – Alice Kohler


The Kayapó tribe often decorate themselves with stripes and this is said to symbolise the pattern of bees. The tribe greatly admire bees and their mythology suggests their ancestors learned some of their social skills and sense of community from this humble insect.

In other ethnic groups, geometric motifs are produced during hallucinogenic visions which are then interpreted by the Shaman, often being related to cosmology and fertility. The images and text below shows the various motifs and meanings found by Shamans of the Tukano tribe of the Northwest Colombian Amazon. For further reading on this matter, we highly recommend the following book from which these pages were scanned:

Rainforest Shamans: Essays on the Tukano Indians of the Northwest Amazon

tukano motifs-2tukano motifs-3tukano motifs

Finally, we will leave you with the Assurini do Xingu patterns once more..

** Warning – Constant gaze may lead to other dimensions **

With Love,




Author: Xapiri

Xapiri supports Amazonian indigenous culture by unifying ethical art, emotive photography and unbiased news. The vision is to increase awareness and inspire positive change.

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