Exhibitions (22.10.2009-27.6.2010)


The exhibition acquaints visitors with the traditional way of life of the indigenous peopl

Náprstek Museum of Asian, African and American Cultures, Betlémské nám. 1, Praha 1

The traditional source of livelihood of Amazonian Indians has been hunting and fishing together with the gathering of various insects and berries of wild plants as well as highlands agriculture. Craftwork has always stemmed from their day-to-day needs and used all sorts of accessible natural materials: wood, reed, wattle, grass, palm leaves, clay or stone. Europeans must be fascinated by the sight of countless ornaments made of feathers, various berries, animal teeth or tectrices. In the life of any Indian community is was not only the chief but also the shaman who played an important role, as an intermediary between the world of people and the world of supernatural powers, both of which it was necessary to keep in balance. Amazonian Indians believe in the existence of good and evil spirits controlling living and non-living nature. When in a transe (often brought about by various drugs), the shaman can communicate with the spirits in his attempt to keep evil powers at bay. In a transe he can transform into various animals (e.g. a jaguar) or have them as helpers. Today, the majority of surviving Amazonian tribes are undergoing an ever faster cultural transformation – subject to market relations, they are losing touch with their own traditions, preserving only what can be sold to tourists, they destroy their environment by cutting trees, they only cultivate monocultures and leave in search of work as casual workers. Despite this, there are still places in Amazonia, usually those less accessible, where Indians, to some extent, retain the traditional way of life dependant on a perfect knowledge of the rainforest and river environment, the source of livelihood and the entire spiritual life. A considerable part of exhibits comes from the collection of the Czech traveller E.S. Vráz (1860 – 1932), who in 1892 – 1893 made a journey across equatorial America. He went down the Orinoco and Amazon rivers, crossed the Andes and got as far as the Peruvian coast. On his way he took photos and apart from a whole range of natural materials he managed to accumulate a valuable ethnographic collection, which he donated to the Náprstek Museum. It is precious in that it does not include only rarities and visually exotic objects (feather ornaments etc.), but also ordinary things of everyday use. Gradually the museum collections from the Amazonian area have been enriched also thanks to other Czech experts and travellers to this region. The exposition is accompained with photos depicting a life of some contemorary amazonian tribes: Yekwana from Venezuela and Ocaína, Asháninca and Shipibo from Peru. They were taken by Czech anthropologist Ludmila Škrabáková.

Ceramic doll – toy - the Karaja tribe, Brazil. By playing with this type of toys children got acquainted with the storyline and procedure of ceremonial dances.
Feather headdress -  the Baníva tribe, Venezuela. 
Feather headdresses have always served as adornment for men, especially for festive ocassions. Part of a “gala attire“ can be body painting, feather ornaments on arms and legs, earrings and ear ornaments, labrets, nose ornaments and various necklaces made of seeds, animal teeth and bones, feathers, tectrices, worked fragments of shells and other natural materials. Feather ornaments used to have a symbolic meaning based on the type and colouring of the feathers.
Turtleshell rattle -  the Karaja tribe, Brazil. Simple musical instruments (rattles, pipes and flutes) accompanying dancing and singing are part and parcel of tribal celebrations and rituals.


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