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"Indian Life on the Orinoco: The Cisneros Collection"
2001-02-16 until 2001-09-23
Museum fuer Voelkerkunde
Frankfurt am Main, , DE Germany

The exhibition presents the public with a rare glimpse of the extraordinary Orinoco Collection, which was recently awarded the prestigious Leone d'Oro di San Marco, one of Europe's most distinguished cultural prizes. The Orinoco Collection is owned by the Fundacion Cisneros, a Venezuela-based private philanthropic organization committed to the future of Latin America.

This is the first exhibition to be organized under the leadership of Anette Rein, new director of the Museum fuer Voelkerkunde. Dr. Rein states, The Museum is thrilled to be able to bring to its visitors this vibrant, culturally significant collection. The exhibition reveals the daily lives and beliefs of the indigenous peoples of the Orinoco-Parima region, exploring the amazing variety of ways in which human cultures approach such shared life-experiences as birth, transition to adulthood, illness, and death. Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, chairman of the Fundacion Cisneros, adds, One of the most critical aspects of the work of the Fundacion is to foster worldwide awareness of the rich and complex cultural heritage of Latin America. The Orinoco Collection offers a vivid portrait of the indigenous cultures of the Amazon Basin, each of them distinct yet sharing a common tie to the land in which they live. We are grateful to the Museum fuer Voelkerkunde for recognizing the sophistication, beauty, and power of these diverse cultures, which are so rapidly disappearing.

Indian Life on the Orinoco: The Cisneros Collection While Amazonia was for many years considered an inhospitable and remote region of the globe, valued solely for the natural resources it offered, during the past several decades interest in the peoples native to the region has increased. Ironically, this interest has coincided with the steady disappearance of the peoples and their land, victims of a variety of factors, including assimilation and Amazon cultures.

The Collection comprises more than 1,400 works of art, artifacts, and objects of daily life created by twelve distinct ethnic groups - the De'aruwa, Ye'kuana, Yanomami, Hiwi, E'niepa, Wakuenai, Baniwa, Bare, Puinave, Warekena, Tsase (piapoco), and Hodi - who live in the region between the Orinoco River and the Sierra Parima mountain range in the southern Venezuelan Amazon.

Indian Life on the Orinoco: The Cisneros Collection presents 400 items from the Collection, including masks, cult objects, and feather ornamentation, as well as photographs of the objects in use and models of communal homes. Exhibition curator and anthropologist Gabriele Herzog-Schroeder says, Rather than being organized around specific ethnic groups, the exhibition is arranged according to a variety of themes, such as rites of passage, ritual and celebration, trade, and family structure, revealing the myriad ways in which the lives of indigenous peoples are structured and interwoven, and illuminating broader themes of love, lifestyle, and magic. The organization around a set of universal subjects both enables visitors to relate the exhibition to their own lives and makes clear the ways in which the meaning of individual objects is determined by the context in which they are used. Moreover, the exhibition demonstrates that, in addition to carrying out a specific function, every object on view expresses social and cosmic laws.

The items in the exhibition extend from important ceremonial objects, such as blow guns, masks, feather decorations, shamanic accessories, ceremonial staffs, and ritual weapons, to a great diversity of body adornments, such as armbands, necklaces, and earrings made of wood and seeds or from animal parts. Also included are a rich assortment of pipes, flutes, rattles, and other musical instruments, and such objects of everyday life as boats, paddles, graters, pottery, and textiles. A wide variety of unique and intricately woven baskets is also on view.

While the objects in hidian Life on the Orinoco are exceptionally diverse, they are all crafted from native vegetable and animal materials, including bird feathers, claws, beaks, skin, and animal teeth; plant fibers, bark, and pigment; wood; stones; cotton; and seeds. Frequently of a dazzling level of craftsmanship and originality, the objects reveal both how close the peoples who made them are to their natural surroundings, and the inextricable links between their material cultures and spiritual lives.

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