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Why do the Wayuu paint their faces?


Wayuu Indigenous Artisans are world renowned for their handmade bags, clutches, bracelets and more.  But the first glance with a Wayuu Artisan can be daunting.  

Do the Wayuu use blackface?  Why do the Wayuu paint their faces black?  


Do Wayuu use blackface?

The quick answer is - No! The Wayuu do not use blackface.  So, what's the reason?

With no aim to offend, the real reason behind the Wayuu tradition of face painting is a story of adaptation, resourcefulness (and a bit of vanity...) 



The Wayuu all live in reservations scattered across the Guajira Desert.  Living in the desert forces them to face some extreme conditions - heat, sun, droughts...  


Most Wayuu communities are hours away from the nearest urban community


Having occupied the Guajira Desert for dozens of generations, the Wayuu have learned a few tricks to desert survival, including how to protect themselves from the elements.  


A typical Wayuu Community


When you see a Wayuu woman with her face painted black - she’s protecting herself from the sun's UV rays!  The Wayuu have learned that combining a native desert plant with goat fat makes one of the most effective facial sunscreens.  The black color is pure coincidence.

However, just as not all women wear sunscreen - not all Wayuu use their natural sunscreen.


We asked several Wayuu Artisans who participated in our Meet the Makers interview series about their face painting.  We were surprised to learn that several Wayuu women feel more beautiful, and more confident after having applied the mixture.  Apart from serving as UV protection, this is also a class of makeup for several Wayuu women.


Hands of Colombia works directly with a group of Wayuu Artisans, featuring their handmade bagsclutches, and bracelets
Hands of Colombia also produces the coolest guitar straps, camera straps and leashes you've ever seen, each featuring its own Wayuu design.  We also make some elegant Leather Clutches
For each item purchased, we donate thread to Wayuu artisans through our Thread Giving Program.
To learn more, check out our collections, or join our Tribe!

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