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Dye 48 Pigment 49 Plant-based 174


Photos: Color Amazonia


Colombian artist Susana Mejía is fascinated by colour. Through her long-term research project 'Color Amazonia', she aims to preserve local knowledge about natural pigments from the Amazon. She collaborated with anthropologists, botanists, filmmakers and artists to document the plants used by indigenous Huitoto and Tikuna communities to investigate 11 different dye plants and their recipes from the Amazon region. Together, they aim to prevent traditional knowledge about natural fibres dyeing from disappearing.

Since its inception, Colour Amazonia has committed to the preservation of the environment and vindication of indigenous knowledge, while delving into the ancient relationship between humans and nature through ethnobotanical and transdisciplinary research. It fosters a collective reflection on the urgency of preserving the world's most important if not last ecological reserve, both, biologically and culturally speaking. So, it stands for a shift of paradigm, at all levels, to embrace the idea of sustainability.

Plant: Amacizo
Scientific name: Erythrina cf fusca
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Erythrina
Species: Fusca
Common names: Amaciza, bucayo, gallito, helequeme
Part of the plant used for pigment: Leaf
Colour: Green

General Description
A tree that can reach thirty meters in height. Typically branches close to the ground, forming a low, leafy crown; the trunk may have small or large spines. The leaves are divided into three leaflets that are ovate in shape, that is to say, wider at the base, but which can be slightly elongated or oblong. These leaves are between 7 and 14 cm long, with a tip that is generally rounded and whitish, with a few tiny 'hairs' that are lost with age, which contrasts with the dark green of the upper part. The flowers are bright orange and are grouped in clusters at the end of the branches, and the fruits are legumes, like beans, up to 30 cm long. The seeds are a speckled brown.

Geographic Distribution and Natural History
This species grows in all tropical areas of America, from sea level to approximately 1,100 meters above sea level. In Colombia, it has been recorded in all-natural regions and grows in both dry and flooded areas. The seeds float in water, and can be dispersed that way; in fact, the preferred habitat of this species is the margins of rivers, lakes and swamps, where it becomes an important component of the vegetation. In some areas of the Pantanal wetland biome in Brazil, this is the dominant species, which is partly explained by the presence of secondary metabolites that prevent or reduce the growth of competing species around it. In the Peruvian Amazon it flowers from July to August, and bears fruit from August to September. In Panama it flowers from December to May, and bears fruit from March to May.

In Panama many birds have been identified that are attracted by the nectar of its flowers, especially species of orioles that migrate from the north. In the Colombian Amazon, twenty-two different species of birds have been observed visiting the flowers of this species, several of which act as pollinators. In Brazil, twenty species were observed visiting it, some of them consuming the flowers. The flowers only open with the help of birds and it is one of the few species in which pollination by parrots has been reported. It is propagated by seeds, but this may also be achieved by cuttings.

In Colombia it is known as búcaro, cantagallo, cachimbo, amacise, amasisa, chengue, chengué, chambul, chocha, palo de agua, pito, zapato de reina, búcaro de pantano, cantagallo colorado, cachingo, cámbulo rosado, and pizamo. In Venezuela it is known as bucare anauco, reinoso, oparu, ubaru; and in Peru it is called gachico.

Although infrequently used ornamentally, it is occasionally employed as a coffee coloured shade or as a 'living' fence. Where it is used in this way in some regions of Colombia thanks to its abundant foliage, studies have been carried out into its value as a supplementary cattle feed; however, treatment is recommended to denature the tannins which are abundant in leaves and reduce the availability of nutrients. The alkaloids ertrahlina and erythramina, similar to curare, have been obtained from this species. The antimalarial effect of some flavonoids extracted from its bark has also been demonstrated.

Making process

The amacizo produces a green pigment, which is obtained by macerating its leaves. This ink adheres to paper best, creating a strong and intense colouring. On cotton, a pale green is obtained, while it does not adhere properly to the fique. It does not require exposure to fire to properly set.

Text submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank. For information about reproducing (a part of) this text, please contact the maker.