Alina Itucama Negria
Medium of Work:
A member of the Wounaan tribal group, master weaver Alina Itucama Negria was born in the province of Darien, in the eastern Panama Rainforest. Negria has legions of fans both regionally and abroad for her artistic practice, which involves applying dazzling abstract designs or floral motifs to traditional Panamanian woven baskets.
Negria’s specialty—palm-fiber basketry—has been elevated to a fine art-form within the Wounaan culture. Entirely handmade, the process begins with harvesting the fronds of a type of indigenous palm tree called “chunga.” Single chunga leaves are painstakingly peeled to create long, thin strips, which are laid outside and bleached by the sun. Then, they are boiled in a bath of natural dyes, whose pigments are derived from roots, berries, leaves, bark or herbs. These bundles are then braided and used as sewing skeins. Individual strands pulled from the skeins must be separated into even finer filaments before they are ready to be woven. Baskets feature highly sophisticated patterns, sometimes of many-colored tropical flowers, butterflies, or geometric, abstract designs.
As a young child, Negria’s mother taught her various types of basket weaving, and by eight years old, Negria was making small baskets to sell at local markets. At 18, Negria began to work full time as a basket weaver, and soon, she was teaching techniques to her sisters and other members of the community. Since 2000, Negria has been involved in helping Wounaan Leaders with land security issues, and more recently, this multifaceted artisan has become involved in helping women and families navigate competitive markets, while also preserving culture and natural resources.