Wayuu make up and symbolism

Why do the Wayuu people paint their faces with spiral shapes?


This facial painting or Wayuu makeup called "Acheepa" in the Wayuu language ( Wayuunaiki) is also characterized by representing the most beautiful of nature and animals that surround them,  such as a flying butterfly, the step of a horse, or the traces of a scorpion.

Julittünaya (butterfly wings), represents the delicacy of the Wayuu woman

It is important to note that the spiral shape is not only considered a whole art because, in addition to exalting the beauty and virtues of the Wayuu woman and the symbology of the feminine in the Wayuu culture,  it also highlights their commitment to their ethnic group. 

When putting on makeup, each Wayuu person chooses the symbol or figure that will represent them before others. The Acheepa is used in traditional events such as the La Yonna dance, dreams rituals, and other special events. 

I am sure you want to know how the Wayuu paint their faces.

To paint the face, the Wayuus use a mixture that is made with water and chalk that they take from a special tree called red bija or "Pali`isa" This is a kind of vegetable plant that can only be found in the Macuira mountain range in northern Colombia located in the municipality of Uribia, La Guajira.

Wayuu make up powder

In areas where it is difficult to find the tree, the Wayuu women can replace it with the Uliisha, which can be obtained from a stone located in streams, this mineral is mainly for medicinal use.

Since the beginning of the Acheepa tradition, the spiral has been used as the main characteristic element because it represents the life of the Wayuu being, the origin, and the path of life, indicating that whatever path the Wayuu takes, they will never forget their origin. Likewise, small dots can be added in the designs, which represent the passage of death, taking into account the close relationship within the culture between the natural and the mystical.

Ashokonojushi (spiral), represents the path of life and death.

The spirals on the woman's face vary according to the age of the person who wears it, the older the woman is, the more circles make up the spiral; As a representation of the longevity and journey of each person, for example, adult women have a greater number of spiral lines and if otherwise, it is a girl, the spiral is shorter, and special and less complex designs are embodied.

Similarly, other figures have been created from the spiral and also without spirals, such as the "Kulalaya": Corral, which represents the wealth of the Wayuu being, the "Jime antirasü": which represents a group of fishes, or the "Shiliwalaya": which represents the stars.
 Jime antirasü (fish meeting)

In the same way, the Wayuu men use “Acheepa”, however, this makeup is more subtle and less elaborate, for these figures linear strokes are made, representative of "Juyaa" (the rain, the male deity of the Wayuu cosmogony), lightning bolts, animal claws, among others.

The Wayuu woman will continue to proudly wear on her face that which is part of an ancestral legacy and which carries with it the reflection of mother earth.

Source of information:
tuuputchika. Colombia
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