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Painted Totumas from Darien


[This is how a calabazo looks like before being converted into a painted totuma.]

This is how a calabazo looks like before being converted into a painted totuma.


[The calabazo is cut in half and its meat is gouged out.]

The calabazo is cut in half and its meat is gouged out.


[After hollowing out the totumas, they must be left to dry.]

After hollowing out the totumas, they must be left to dry.


[After dried, the outer surface of the totumas is painted with a dark natural pigment.]

After dried, the outer surface of the totumas is painted with a dark natural pigment.


[Mr. Alberto Gonzalez C., working on a decorative totuma.]

Mr. Alberto Gonzalez C., working on a decorative totuma.


[When the paint is dry, the handcrafter proceeds to mark the preferred design on the surface of the totuma.]

When the paint is dry, the handcrafter proceeds to mark the preferred design on the surface of the totuma.


[The skin of the totuma between the marked lines is then chiseled out.]

The skin of the totuma between the marked lines is then chiseled out.


[Here we can see the outside and the inside of some finished totumas.]

Here we can see the outside and the inside of some finished totumas.


[These totumas make nice decorations. They can be hung from walls or displayed on shelfs.]

These totumas make nice decorations. They can be hung from walls or displayed on shelfs.


By:

Marino Jaén Espinosa
2012-04-15

In a prior article, a few years ago, we described the many uses a totuma has in our campesino and indian houses. Today, we will talk about another type of totuma, a decorative one.

The totumas in this article come from Darien province. A frequent visitor of PanamaTipico.com, Mr. Alberto Gonzalez C., lived there several decades ago and learned the process of making these totumas. He wanted to share this knowledge with our visitors and that is why he invited us to write about this particular style of painted totumas.

As all totumas, these are made from a calabazo, the fruit of the tree know as Crescentia cujete. First, a suitable calabazo is picked, cut in half and the internal pulp or meat is gouged out. The resulting totuma is then put to dry.

After it is dried, the totuma is painted with a dark natural pigment, probably jagua. Later, when the paint is dry, lines are marked on the surface of the totuma. These lines are the blueprint of the decorations the finished totuma will have and they will depend on the taste of the crafter. The final step involves carving more the surface of the totuma, so the lines are widened and form the intended designs.

This style of totuma is very rare in Panama today. Sadly, there are not many people skilled in this craft. That is why we decided to publish this article. We would like to know if any visitor has seen similar totumas, particularly in Darien province, where they originated, according to Mr. Gonzalez C.


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