Traditional Knowledge

The paints are made from plants and mixed with other ingredients such as charcoal. The popular red paint often used for the face is made from the ground seeds of the achiote shrub. For black coloring, the liquid in the genipa fruit is often used. As it oxidizes, the liquid colors the upper layers of the skin, lasting a couple of weeks.

Beyond the beauty

Assumptions can be made based on a Kayapo’s exterior adornments due to the fact that information about the individual is exhibited to the public through their body paint. With a glance, one can decipher social identity and status of a Kayapo from the intricate designs painted and stained onto their skin.


The black body paint made from genipapo serves as much as an informant, as an expression of imagination.


The most important significance of genipapo body paint is how it exposes the relationship of the individual to other forms of nature. It marks an adult’s health, cleanliness, and participation in communal activities.


The black color represents the correlation between society and nature. More specifically, the word for the color black is used to define the area just outside of the village; the imaginary boundary between the village and the wild.


The red, oily body paint, juxtaposes the everyday black in many ways. In contrast to the black, the color red symbolizes life, vitality, and energy.