Guarani and Kaiowá Virtual Museum

Experimental Approaches

to Collaborative Heritage

RAFFAELLA FRYER-MOREIRA

FABIANA ASSIS FERNANDES

LUDOVIC COUPAYE

SUPPORTED BY THE UCL GRAND CHALLENGES SPECIAL INITIATIVES FUND

AND THE BRITISH MUSEUM'S ENDANGERED MATERIAL KNOWLEDGE PRACTICES FUND

As the Guarani and Kaiowá people face the most severe humanitarian crisis out of any indigenous population in Brazil, there is the need for a greater and more exposed comprehension of the indigenous rights and the importance of rethinking the ways in which material and immaterial cultural heritage is managed on a global scale, and increasing the participation of source communities in the curation and display of heritage.

UCL MAL, a student-led research network that explores experimental methods for research practice and communication across disciplines, has proposed building an online virtual museum curated by indigenous Guarani and Kaiowá communities in Brazil. This project research focuses on the relations between indigenous knowledge, practices and their environment, ascertaining how and what the Guarani and Kaiowá communities would like to preserve in their virtual Museum. 

The Kuñangue Aty Guasu, led by Guarani & Kaiowá female elders and shamans, is an essential space for indigenous women to exchange knowledge, develop shared proposals for action, and is a key site for the creation of their Virtual Museum. Drawing on the successful dialogue established through the recent Multimedia Encounters conference, this project will support Guarani and Kaiowá women as they build their own digital identity, helping provide them with the skills they need to build, maintain, and further develop these online spaces to present their heritage on their own terms.
 

 
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The Guarani and Kaiowá Virtual Museum

Guarani and Kaiowá community members and elders will be supported to identify aspects of their material and immaterial cultural heritage which they would like to include in an online VR museum exhibit. The community will receive training in the process of photogrammetry and 3D modelling, enabling them to decide which objects they would like to include in their VR museum. The VR exhibit will be hosted by Mozilla Hubs, a free and open source platform which enables non-specialists to easily create virtual spaces, where members of UCL MAL will support the Guarani and Kaiowá community as they curate the 3D models they have selected and prepare them to be presented to a general international audience, that can be accessed via a web browser or VR headset.

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The Yvyra'i are sacred wooden sticks, and are used during the Jerosy Puku ritual, regarded as 'messengers' by the Guarani and Kaiowá. 

The Mbaracá plays a key role in Guarani and Kaiowá ceremonies, rituals, and chants. The sacred shamanic rattle, which was originally restricted to men, is contemporarily utilised by all genders and promotes dialogue and harmonious relations with the metaphysical entities that populate Guarani and Kaiowá ecologies. Conversely, the Taquapú can only be played - or even touched - by women in the community. Governed by strict rules, the creation of the Taquapú instrument is closely linked to the moon’s cycles.

The Oga Pysy provides a physical space and vessel to the Guarani and Kaiowá community, establishing a direct link to their central deity, Nhanderu Tupã. Social and cultural harmony is restored in the community through several seasonal rites and ceremonies held in these houses. It is understood that the absence of Oga Pysy would result in social disharmony and a breakdown in community relations. Facing violence and arson attacks from neighbouring non-indigenous communities, fewer houses are being built over time.

Other aspects of Guarani and Kaiowá cultural heritage included in the virtual Museum include sound recordings of sacred chanting.

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To visit the Kuñangue Aty Guasu website, click on the image below:

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Why a Virtual Museum?

The project will have a local impact on Guarani and Kaiowá communities in Mato Grosso Do Sul, Brazil, by creating a digital infrastructure through which local communities can preserve, curate, and display their material and immaterial cultural heritage. This project will impact how Guarani and Kaiowá communities interact with researchers, contributing to a locally-managed digital heritage collection that can be added to in the future. The collaborative creation of this Virtual Museum will also have a global impact: the community-led preservation, curation, and display of indigenous heritage through online virtual platforms will raise awareness and increase the global understanding of indigenous communities in Brazil.

This partnership will also have a local impact at UCL. By contributing towards the critical and reflexive approach to heritage that is being pursued here by creating this space for dialogue and exchange between the Ethnographic Collection at UCL Anthropology. The collaborative exchange during this proposed project will enable UCL staff to understand better the needs, concerns, and priorities of indigenous communities regarding the collection, preservation, and display of heritage.