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Dye 48 Pigment 50 Plant-based 176


Photos: Color Amazonía


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: Bure
Scientific name: Goeppertia loeseneri
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Marantaceae
Genus: Calathea
Species: Loeseneri
Common names: Bure, tinta verde
Part of the plant used for pigment: Leaf
Colour: Blue-green

General Description
Herbaceous plant that grows up to a meter in height. Notable for its large, oval and elongated leaves up to twenty centimetres in length and green in colour, being lighter at the centre compared to the sides. Its flowers are groupings of pink and white petals and bracts that stand out individually against the leaves.

Geographic Distribution and Natural History
Its original distribution is restricted to a few countries in South America, especially Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. Although it is usually found in hot regions and requires high temperature and humidity, it is a shade plant.

In the Amazon, the indigenous Tikuna people call it “blue and green dye.” Its leaves are used in the rites of some Amazonian indigenous communities to paint a wide range of objects, decorate crafts, and in clothing. Due to its use in gardening, it has commercial value. It is commonly found as an ornamental indoor plant.

Making process

Bure is hard to find and it produces a blue-green coloured pigment, obtained when its leaves are mashed. Its pigment is effective, but the colour loses intensity on cotton and does not set well on fique (natural fibre). Exposure to fire is not necessary during the dyeing process.

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.