About Tagua Nut Carvings

Throughout Panama, Ecuador, and much of Central and South America, native artists create beautiful works of art from "vegatable ivory", the tagua nut. The tree from which it falls, the Ivory Nut Palm, grows primarily in the Central American Rainforest.

The nuts, when dried, are able to be carved into beautiful ivory-like sculptures. The durability of the tagua and it's similarity to animal's ivory has been known for a long time. The local artists sometimes leave them in their natural off-white color, and sometimes color them with delicate painting or inking with special inks. Regardless, they are always beautiful.

Imagine what goes on in the mind of one of these artists as they look at the nut for the first time and try to visualize what this small stone looking nut will become. Will it be a spider? A lizard? Perhaps a fish, a butterfly, or a bear? Whatever is decided, the artist begins to remove the excess material as the sculpture begins to reveal itself. The detail and accuracy of these tagua items is often unbelievable. Often, the artist will sign the item on the bottom to allow others to share his name with others who admire the beauty of these carvings.

The Wounaan people are master artisans from the Darien-Chocoregion of Panama. The Wounaan articans carve thetagua with hand tools and polish the tagua with a series of fine abrasives, bringing them to a beautiful shine. Artists with access to fine india inks sometimes paint the carvings.