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Accepted Paper:

Ye'kuana Basketry from the Venezuelan Amazon: Transferences and Adaptations of Uses and Myths in the Present  
Alessandra Caputo Jaffe (Adolfo IbaƱez University, Chile)

Paper short abstract:

This paper studies Ye'kuana contemporary basketry (Venezuelan Amazon). It compares the changes and continuities in mythical meanings, visual symbols and practical uses between traditional male basketry -made for domestic purposes-, and a new kind of female basketry -made for commercial purposes-.

Paper long abstract:

This paper studies Ye'kuana contemporary basketry in its intricate relationship between visual culture and their myths of creation: Basketry constantly interweaves the cultural and domesticated human-world with the "wild" and potentially dangerous world of nature, adapting and reinventing itself according to historic contingencies. Traditional Ye'kuana basketry is mainly made by males, since they are the main intermediaries between the "savage" outer world and the "domestic" world. They weave baskets taking vegetal materials from the forest not before asking for permission to the "owner-spirits" of each plant. This process goes through different ritualized steps before plant (which comes from an external and potentially dangerous environment) can properly function in the domestic realm, such as the preparation of manioc wheat and manioc bread.

In the past decades, women have begun to make new forms of basketry, made specifically for commerce with the Western world -tourists and sellers from handcrafts shops. It is often thought that these baskets lack of "authentic" mythical and symbolical meaning. However, in our surveys we have been able to prove that this new basketry has taken new symbolical values, and that the creation myths have been adapted to include this type of basketry in their narratives.

This study analyses the malleability and adaptability that both, visual culture and myth have faced in the past 40 years, in which societies have experienced numerous changes from the increasing contact with the Western world and the process of evangelization. Specifically, it shows the resilience of mythical knowledge and symbolic meanings through drastic changes through contact with the Western world.

Panel P061
Amazonian Contemporary Art, and its Impacts in Fixing Imaginaries in Transmutational Cultures
  Session 1 Saturday 2 June, 2018, -