Mona Suhrbier, curator for the Americas, in conversation with the Indigenous Shipibo artist Harry Pinedo.

The exhibition “healing. Life in Balance” presents the work “Ayahuasca Meditation” by Harry Pinedo. The painting creates associations between chomos, the ceremonial Shipibo beer pots, Ayahuasca ceremonies, the world snake Ani Ronin and the patterns seen in Ayahuasca visions.

On the Night of the Museums, the Labor of the Weltkulturen Museum at Schaumainkai 37 will be opening its special exhibition “Shipibo Pot Stories. In a multimedia installation by the artist René Appel, a joni chomo by Shipibo potter Virgínia Maynas Piñon is brought to life through digital animation and tells a story. Joni chomo, which literally means “human pot”, is a ceremonial beer pot from the Weltkulturen Museum collection that is adorned with a human face. Harry Pinedo acted as consultant for René Appel and contributed his own drawings and pictures for the show.

Animation sketch by René Appel with the painting "La Meditación del Ayahuasca” by Harry Pinedo and a “joni chomo” by Virgínia Maynas Piñon, 2023.

Mona Suhrbier: What’s so interesting about this project from your perspective?

Harry Pinedo: For me personally, this project is extremely important for the following reasons:

1. It helps to preserve our Shipibo-Konibo culture. This includes traditional knowledge such as that conveyed by the chomo ainbo (a mythical female being made of clay) pottery. The pottery visualises myths in the patterns known as kené. It teaches us about the history and origins of nature.

2. It enables an audience from all age groups to find out about contemporary Amazon culture and its Indigenous art. This leads to an appreciation of Shipibo traditions, philosophy and art.

3. This innovative project links Indigenous arts with contemporary digital art: the traditional pottery of Virgínia Piñon, my painting, and the digital animation by René Appel.

4. What’s ultimately most important for me is that our Shipibo culture is visible in the world, that it’s valued, respected and preserved. The creativity shown by the young artist René Appel in this serious work contributes towards that.

MS: What did you feel about your role in this project?
HP: I find the project deeply moving, and I really admire the artwork by René Appel, who has succeeded in producing an appreciative expression of the spiritual aspects of Shipibo-Konibo culture. I am grateful and delighted that he included my works in this presentation of the Shipibo-Konibo worldview, using digital tools for it to be shown in museums and art galleries.
Animation sketch by René Appel with a “joni chomo” by Virgínia Maynas Piñon, 2023.

MS: Some Shipibo say that environmental destruction leads to disruptions or damage to the spiritual patterns too. In your opinion, what has to happen in order to heal the patterns of the world?
HP: I think that anthropological, historical and artistic research on the old and new kené pattern art of the Shipibo has to continue. This should always take place under the supervision of the wise Shipibo men and women, so that the spiritual patterns and associated practices don’t end up getting lost. The cultural heritage of the Shipibo-Konibo nation should be cultivated in schools, museums, art galleries and in public space, and should be communicated to each new Indigenous and non-Indigenous generation. Because it’s about becoming familiar with and sharing the energy of our ancestors

Joni Chomo. Virgínia Maynas Piñon. Collected by Johann Willig, 1988, Collection Weltkulturen Museum. Photo: Wolfgang Günzel

MS: What’s your attitude to Shipibo pottery being stored and exhibited in Western museums?
HP: In my opinion, our grandparents’ pottery as well as the contemporary pottery practiced in the region of the Ucayali river are known around the globe, and these are associated with our own worldview and language. It’s part of the living culture of the Peruvian Amazon region and Latin America. It’s very important to preserve it and make it visible.
That’s why I was so happy to see these ceramics in the Weltkulturen Museum. They have a long history because our grandmothers produced them by hand in order to brew masato (manioc beer) für the big Ani Xeati festival. As a Shipibo artist I’m happy that these pieces of pottery are being exhibited, studied and valued in the world’s best museums, like the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt, just like the sculptures and pottery of the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. My wish is that people accord the same value to Shipibo art.

MS: Do you think it is a form of “cultural appropriation” when non-Indigenous people talk about Shipibo matters?
HP: When knowledge about our ancestors and current Shipibo scholarship is spread and shared in a Western country like Germany, I believe it’s a form of dialogue and understanding rather than cultural appropriation. It’s about using empathy to enable a balanced coexistence with other cultures and about respecting Indigenous languages, worldviews and history. But when doing that we have to be really careful to ensure that non-Indigenous people share knowledge and respect traditions without falsifying what the Shipibo cosmovision is about. The mistake that non-Indigenous people could make is selling things with Indigenous authorship as their own or, even more flagrantly, patenting them without conducting a dialogue. Many Shipibo are annoyed about that and view it as a kind of theft or cultural appropriation. We can prevent this kind of injustice if we value and respect the artwork of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists equally.

Harry Pinedo ‑ Inin Metsa. La Meditación del Ayahuasca, 2022. Shipibo, Ucayali and Lima, Peru. Collected by Mona Suhrbier, 2022. Collection Weltkulturen Museum. Photo: Wolfgang Günzel

MS: What do you think a suitable kind of participation would look like?
HP: In the 21st century everybody should be involved in dialogues about living cultures. Indigenous authors should be invited to take part in art and cultural processes as active participants; the Weltkulturen Museum does it that way, for example. Westerners should come together with Indigenous people for a good dialogue in order to become familiar with Indigenous history, art and traditions, and then communicate that in European schools and universities, too. Not only the aesthetics and supposedly exotic culture should be discussed, but also the social and political problems that currently impair the life of Indigenous communities in the Amazon region who are fighting for their rights on their own land or in their own environment. They need international support in their search for appropriate solutions that preserve Indigenous knowledge, and that includes the dangers facing nature today. Finally, I’d like to thank Dr. Mona Suhrbier, Alice Pawlik and all the team at the Weltkulturen Museum.


Harry Pinedo (born in 1988) is a teacher and visual artist who lives in Lima. His Indigenous Shipibo name is Inin Metsa (Fragrant Leaves). Pinedo completed a bachelor in Educacion Intercultural Bilingue (Bachelor of Intercultural Bilingual Education) at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia. A painter like his parents Elena Valera (Indigenous name: Bahuan Jisbe) and Roldán Pinedo (Indigenous name: Shoyan sheca), Pinedo has devoted himself to his art since finishing secondary school. He presents his paintings each year at the Peruvian Ministry of Culture's folk art fair Rurak maki and has taken part in collective and held solo exhibitions since 2010. The most important of these include MIRA! – Artes Visuales Contemporáneas de los Pueblos Indígenas in Belo Horizonte in Brazil in 2013, El esplendor de Yanapuma im Centro Colich de Barranco in Lima in 2017, and New Generation in the Galerie d'Art Maggy Stein in Luxembourg in 2022.