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The Bigbi, Traditional Kuna Fan


[Front view of a bigbi.]

Front view of a bigbi.


[This is a rearview of the same traditional fan.]

This is a rearview of the same traditional fan.


[A close-up of the weaving that makes up the bigbi.]

A close-up of the weaving that makes up the bigbi.


[This is how the handle of the fan looks like.]

This is how the handle of the fan looks like.


[A local from Ukupseni island shows us some bigbis among other handicrafts.]

A local from Ukupseni island shows us some bigbis among other handicrafts.


By:

Marino Jaén Espinosa
2012-12-18

The bigbi is a traditional fan used by the Kuna Indians of Northeastern Panama. It is made of palm leaves. It has the appearance of a woven spatula with a short handle.

This fan is very different from the European/Asian fans usually seen in Panama, especially in connection to the pollera. However, it is easy to understand the differences between the designs when we realize that Kunas use their bigbi mainly for fanning their traditional fireplace instead of a cooling hand fan for alleviating the effects of high temperatures experienced in Panama.

We strongly recommend all our visitors to buy a bigbi, both for its utility and also for its traditional value. Even if you do not have a fireplace, you could still use it for cooling yourself on a hot day. When asking for one, remember that the right pronunciation of bigbi is closer to biibi.


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