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Friday, August 21, 2020

ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDIES: TRIBAL PEOPLES IN PANAMA – JOSH (THOMAS1 BELLIC) REPORTING


Looking for something different in your SecondLife?  Are the same old clubs you visit night after night becoming a bit “stale”? Does riding a fire-belching dragon, or fighting for your life as you watch your health meter drop in a combat sim just not hold your attention like it once did? Then have I got a word for you...and that word is “Ethnographic Studies” (OK, so technically it’s two words…so hyphenate it). And what better way to scratch that itch…to pursue that passion…to boldly go when no one has gone before? (cue music) but to check out one of the FINEST Ethnography Exhibits In all of SecondLife?  
I recently had the very real pleasure of meeting Nexus Dot, researcher extraordinaire and curator of the SL display: Ethnographic Exhibits of Two Cultures from the Republic of Panama.

Josh Bellic (JB):  So tell me, Nexus.  Just what is “Ethnography” anyway?  And why should people study it?
Nexus Dot (ND):  Ethnography refers to the process anthropologists use to document and interpret other cultures.  This concept of culture is the primary focus of the ethnographer.  With respect to culture and how ethnography differs from certain other sciences, my intellectual mentor Clifford Geertz says,  “Believing …that man (sic) is an animal suspended in webs of significance (s)he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning."   

This exhibit is then an attempt at the interpretation of these many different webs of meaning. Webs that you will discover when you take the intellectual effort to peek beneath the surface of these two incredible tropical lowland rain forest indigenous tribes located in eastern Panama.  These webs of meaning have evolved over hundred of thousands of years of the cultural evolution of our species.  Webs of meaning that reflect the heritage of our tribal past, now often forgotten but whose influence is indelibly written in the DNA of our own cultures.


JB:  Share with our readers what this exhibit is all about.
ND:  There are many themes in the exhibit. The one that I would like most to bring to your attention is that traditional people represent a unique aspect of human consciousness. For hundreds of thousands of years our species believed in the spirit world. This was before the invention of agriculture and the major world religions. This influence creeped into our understanding of the environment, and tribal people of the world represent this way of thinking. The two cultures in the exhibit represent the remnants of that long standing tradition. We try to present aspects of the complexity and comprehensive nature of their understanding of their environment and its ecological implications. Here is a YouTube that introduces the exhibit ... 2 minutes only ...Copy/Paste the following address into your Web browser.

JB:  How did you first come to be interested in the Emberá Culture of Eastern Panama.
ND:  I grew up in Panama. We lived in a community located at the edge of the rainforest. From an early age, I admired indigenous culture and became interested in the nature of human consciousness. So. It is a reasonable extension of my interests to work with indigenous cultures in Panama.
JB:  Whatever convinced you to publish your research using the Virtual World of SecondLife?
ND:  I found that when you gave a talk in SL, it was helpful to send people to an exhibit. My initial goal was to give a few thoughts about indigenous culture and a small exhibit. Then the concept of an exhibit took on a life of its own. We decided to do a stand-alone self-guided exhibit. Shiloh Emmons, my colleague in the exhibit, convinced me to expand and do a more comprehensive project. The tools of SL provide an excellent immersive virtual geography for presenting complex ideas and multimedia information.

JB:  Tell us about the different exhibit areas please?
ND:  There are eight different exhibit areas.
  • Emberá Cosmology and Ecology which includes shamanic rituals.
  • The story of Henupoto , the supernatural antihero of the mythical past, an important Emberá narrative.
  • Art and Aesthetics of Guna Mola Textile Art.
  • The mola gallery where we display 38 antique molas.
  • Ethnobotany, how people of the lowland tropics use plants, including psychoactive plants.
  • A large map gallery of the geography of Panama.
  • Photo essays of Emberá Drúa, a heritage tourism program run by an Emberá indigenous community
  • Hall of the Giant Molas
There are also multiple slide shows and many interactive multimedia signs.

JB:  I saw a display that mentioned Henupoto?  Who is he and why is he important to the people of Emberá? 
ND:  Henupoto is a well-known narrative among the Emberá. It is the story of a Herculean-like antihero who is the son of a union between a powerful spirit and an indigenous woman. He is considered a nuisance by his people, so they are constantly sending him out on impossible tasks that he expertly executes. In the end, he provides the community with many gifts and a curse. The story serves as a means of discussing the many complex ecological concepts and the Emberá's profound understanding of the supernatural world. Unlike most modern superheroes, Henupoto is more of an antihero. The message is that life is not simple, not just good or bad.
JB:  Do you have any upcoming events?
ND:  At noon on September 5th at the Science Circle, I will present a talk on Art and Aesthetics of Guna Mola Textile Art. We are planning several events for the near future including a panel on the mythical antihero and Emberá cosmology. The dates and times will be posted at the exhibit. Numerous organizations have booked guided tours, and individuals are invited to drop by anytime as it is open to the public. Groups can IM me to book a tour—at Nexus Dot. 

JB:  Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
ND:  I think there is a striking renaissance of art, science and other intellectual activities in SL, maybe due to the Covid19 crisis. I think these are worthy goals and am pleased to be a small part of a community that is working so hard to ensure that SL offers more than just fun and recreation. I would like to thank Valibrarian and the team of the Community Virtual Library (CVL) for their gracious support of the exhibit.  We used up a lot of their Prims and they never once complained. We encourage all visitors to explore the ethnographic exhibits, and the Community Virtual Library (CVL) Research Library located on Cookie Island. 
So there you have it, folks.  For a completely different way of viewing SL and the world around you, come check out the “Ethnographic Exhibits of Two Cultures from the Republic of Panama.” Tell your Limo driver to take you to the following location: 
You’ll be glad you did.
Aloha!

JB
Reactions:

1 comments:

  1. Great I will definitely visit soon- this is the wonderful side of SL often missed but much valued!

    ReplyDelete

 
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