Take the steep and stepped high road past the waterfall for a great panoramic view and see the work of Peruvian shamanic artists Montes Shuna and Panduro Baneo, showing a spiritual connection between plants and people. Funded by the Arts Council, the artists came over for the summer a few years back, to paint on the Biome back wall. It was the first time Montes Shuna had ever used acrylics. He sometimes uses psychoactive plant infusions, ayahuasca, to create the visions which are the source for his paintings.

These murals were painted by traditional Peruvian herbalists Francisco Montes Shuna and Yolanda Panduro Baneo. The paintings show their visions of the spirits of the plants they have worked with medicinally.

The two vegetalistas (healers) have learnt their skills and knowledge from their grandparents, passed down through ancient oral traditions.

What the murals mean

Each mural tells a different story.

The origin of ayahuasca and chacruna
When the powerful vegetalista Ayas was buried, the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) grew from his head and the chacruna bush (Psychotria viridis) from his hands; the two key ingredients of ayahuasca were discovered. Ayahuasca is used by the vegetalistas to contact the spirit world.

The spirit of chiric sanango
As a teacher plant, chiric sanango (Brunfelsia grandiflora) has both male and female energy. As a medicinal plant it is used to treat arthritis and rheumatism. A common ingredient of ayahuasca, it increases energy and clears the mind.

Spiritual purification
The canelilla (Aniba canelilla) and huambisa chacruna (Diplopterys cabrerana) are depicted here, purifying the body. The body is covered with yellow clay, also used in spiritual purification. Look closely to find male and female energy in the painting.

The spirit of colita de gavilan
The bromeliad colita de gavilan (Billbergia sp.) is depicted as the headdress of the spirit. Can you see the actual plant? It is mixed with the sapohuasca vine (Cissus sicyoides) to make a compress to heal broken bones.

Winds of the shacapa
The shacapa (Pariana sp.) is sacred. It is used to make rattles for ceremonies to draw impurities from the body. The bands of colour represent different energies of the shacapa. This energy comes from the eye of the universe.

Birth of the spirits
When this spirit was born, two plants were born: tobaco bravo (Nicotiana sp.), to purify the place of birth, and campanita del campo, to announce his birth. The sun and the moon are giving energy to the birth of the spirit.

Dance of the spirits
The spirits are rising from the earth, dancing for joy at seeing the plants and flowers: huarmi caspi (Sterculia apetala), used as a medicine by female healers, and sacha granadilla (Passiflora sp.), for medicine and perfume.

Spirit woman of the toe
Leaves and flowers of toe or datura (Brugmansia sp.) are smoked to relax the mind and to treat epilepsy. The sap from the stem and root are used to induce visions. This plant is a powerful narcotic and if misused can be fatal.

Dance of the leaves
The leaves of these two teacher trees, huayra caspi (Cedrelinga catanaeformis) and puma caspi (Roucheria punctate), are said to dance with each other as they fall. They are both used medicinally. Spot the black panther, the spirit of this plant.

Spirit woman of machacuy huasca
The artist was bitten by a jergon (a venomous snake) and was cured by this plant. Yolanda took the cooked root of machacuy huasca for eight days and claims to have been visited by this spirit.

Paradise lost, paradise found
Francisco had a vision of Eden. He saw Bodelva before it was a china clay pit. Two mountains guarded a secret beneath the earth. A green star connects to the earth, a blue star to the sky, giving this place powerful energy. Above, the wind, and below, the sea, protect us. The eyes of the world are here to see us go forward. Below is a great man representing the tribes of the world, his head connected to Eden, his body to the sea.

The spirit of the grandfather trees
Three great teacher trees, catahua (Hura crepitans), lupuna colorada (Canavillesia arborea) and chullachaqui caspi (Remijia sp.) with their spirits. Teacher trees provide spiritual guidance and medicinal properties. Look out for teacher trees as you continue your journey.