Amazonia

Paths to the Indians 15/Jul/2011 - 28/Oct/2012
Amazonia often figures in the news and on the front pages of newspapers. Public attention turns at times to its unmatched natural wealth or the destruction of that wealth, at other times to its "savage" inhabitants living out of sight. Almost every day we hear about the disappearance of its unique flora and fauna, of the processes that may be having a harmful impact on the atmosphere of the entire planet. Sometimes among the people protesting on the spot and around the world against these happenings we catch a glimpse of the Indians who have always lived in the Amazon jungle. Their existence is intertwined with the natural world around them that ensures their livelihood: the fate of forest and man are closely linked.

 

In the eyes of many the world's largest single expanse of rainforest has become the symbol of virgin Nature, that many people imagine or know as having two faces. One is untouched Nature, the unspoiled realm of countless species of plants and animals. A comfortable home providing abundant food for people living in harmony with nature, where little effort is needed to obtain the basic necessities of life, the remnant of the Golden Age found in the mythology of many peoples.

The other face is the hostile, fearsome, unknowable jungle, the Green Hell. The home of insects that cause fatal diseases, poisonous plants, dangerous wild animals. Those who enter may be attacked by the warlike natives living in the depths of the jungle, far from civilization, people who until quite recently still practised cannibalism.



The aim of the exhibition is two-fold: on the one hand it wishes to show the traditional way of life in the jungle that was the starting point of the changes now taking place and on the other hand to give an idea of the developments in this region in recent decades. Accordingly, the exhibition, arranged with the contribution of the Hungarian Natural History Museum and the environmental organisation Greenpeace, covers three main themes. The first gives a glimpse into the natural history of Amazonia, especially through a few interesting examples of the fauna. The main body of the exhibition consists of ethnographical material dating from the 1960s-1970s, presenting objects from the traditional forest life. We have tried to illustrate the fact that only small groups that adapted well and continuously cultivated the land could survive in this "Paradise".

The unavoidable penetration of civilization now basically allows the native peoples two options. The countries with territory in Amazonia are setting up nature conservation parks that can ensure for the Indians too the possibility to withdraw and preserve their traditional way of life. But the majority are already assimilating to some extent, they are moving to more accessible settlements where they can receive education and medical care. With their agriculture they can participate in supplying the local population, and they can sell their traditional products as folk art objects. Tourism has reached even this exotic part of the world: river tours, luxury jungle bungalows and shaman-wellness attract wealthy travellers.

Because deforestation could become a process affecting the climate of the whole planet, countless movements locally and world-wide are opposing this spread of civilization. The final section of the exhibition deals with this theme.

Curator: Vilma Főzy