February 2, 2023

The Moon In The Amazon

I'm writing sporadically while travelling throughout Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil in my second trip through Latin America. I'm here to decompress from work & improve my Spanish and maybe get a Jaguar tattoo. Who knows?

The Smuggler, The Dealer, and The Gold Seeker

In 1969, while the world watched in astonishment as three men set foot on the Moon for the first time, that same day, in the Colombian Amazon, three men found an isolated human group unheard of in 'Western' society. The three men - a smuggler, a dealer in animal skins and a gold seeker - had just cleared fifty miles of untouched jungle to avoid having their contraband - gasoline, gold and exotic animal skins - seized at border controls between Brazil and Colombia.

In a clearing in the jungle, the three men glimpsed what appeared to be a maloca, an indigenous ceremonial ground. Colonists, rubber tappers, loggers, ocelot hunters, evangelical missionaries, drug traffickers, illegal miners, paramilitaries and guerrillas had crossed this dense jungle before, trying to take possession of it, without ever encountering anyone.

Arriving at this site, the smuggler heard a noise inside the maloca; he advanced towards it and entered. The fur trader followed him, but stopped suddenly on the threshold, because he saw something. The gold seeker wanted to move towards the maloca, but stepped on something with his foot and stopped: small metallic shapes gleamed on the ground. He bent down to touch them, put them in his pocket and fled.

The first two men were never heard from again. The third, the gold seeker, was rescued a few days later and taken back home.

Half a century after this adventure, Artists laboratory Mapa Teatro met this man in a Bogota flea market. He was selling statuettes and gold reproductions of pre-Colombian figurines. He had been a huaquero: an illegal excavator of pre-Hispanic archaeological treasures, which he later sold or falsified for export to Europe.

Every night, for fifty years, this man has had the same dream: strange figures, animated animals and plants enter his workshop and occupy his house. To conjure the dreams, the huaquero learns the trade of goldsmithing and recovers the ancient techniques of lost wax.

Due to their attraction and obsession with metal nuts, the self-isolating communities break the engines they find in cocaine laboratories abandoned in the jungle or in the machines left behind by illegal gold mining: they break the remains of crashed small planes and their communication equipment to take only the nuts.

He continues this tradition.

Meta nuts reconstituted into golden art.

I encountered this story in the MAMU (Museo de Arte Miguel Urrutia) and had to reproduce it here as I found it so engaging. Like a piece of dark mythology.

Here's the blurb for the Exhibition, which was a collection of lectures and videos: Drawing on evidence of the existence of an indigenous people whose survival depends on complete isolation from Western civilization, the theater collective Mapa Teatro creates a process of ethno-fiction.

Selected Images

Flávio de Carvalho, Brazilian artist who's work in Sao Paolo the piece draws on. Educated in France, Newcastle(?!) and Brazil, Carvalho was a surrealist provocateur, writer, painter, and architect who co-founded the Clube dos Artistas Modernas in Sao Paolo in the 1930s.

Huaqueros in Peru
Hans Heinrich Brüning, German born Peruvian ethnologist and huaquero alongside a group during an excavation in Peru.

An example of a Maloca.

Audio version of this post:  here 

More Work
February 19, 2024

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