I’m always inspired by beautiful creations that come from something that is otherwise everyday, and in this case, considered mundane, growing with abundance in Nature in Panama. The indigenous Indian tribes got smart and decided that they could use the nut for carvings as a “elephant safe ivory” and no longer cut down this tree because it has become so resourceful for their economy. The reason the nut is often left as the base is not only to show a single carving; although some do use two nuts, but to let custom officials know that this carving is not from elephant tusk.
These tagua treasures that I discovered on our Panama trip exemplify this concept of exceptional mini sculptures from the everyday nut that take quite an artistic talent to carve and even paint. We saw all of these animals while there, btw. Including three coatimundi (a raccoon type animal) that reminded us more of lemurs as they went bounding across our path on our way to the jungle to see the howler monkeys.
Taqua is an egg size nut that grows nearly everywhere in South America. We saw the tree whenever we were walking in the rainforest. There is no shortage of supply for creating these beautiful creatures. There is also tagua jewlery that can be carved. The hand dyed and woven basket above is another one of the treasures that I purchased from the Embera. I love the colors and keep all the taguas inside — truly a basket of treasures.
We learned about them at the Embera Indian village where we visited. Each family had tagua figurines and wares for sale. I purchased something from each family but ran out of funds to get an all white armadillo that caught my eye. Consequently, I’m on a search and hope to find one to finalize my collection. These are the closest I’ve found to the one I saw with combinations of both figurines — small nut base with this top armadillo style and the ribbed armadillo tail of the second one. This site seems to give credit to the Embera Artisans and has carvings more in keeping with their intricate style. Whatever I find, it won’t be the same unless it comes from the village.
I like how One World Projects supports the Indians from which these figurines were created because as you can the price can otherwise get awfully inflated. If only they had an armadillo like the one I’m looking for…Excuse for another trip?