This online exhibit features work by Sheroanawë Hakihiiwë, who is a member of the Venezuelan Yanomami community. The Yanomami people are an indigenous people group living in the Amazon rainforest, both in Brazil and Venezuela. Sheroanawë’s tribe is from Mahekoto-Platanal, Amazonas, Venezuela. This exhibit explores themes of tools for recording self-determined history, indigenous agency, and the development of new art forms through catalytic interactions.
One such catalyst for the Yanomami people was the arrival of Mexican-born artist Laura Anderson Barbata. In 1992 Laura began work with the Yanomami people, founding the Yanomami Owë Mamotima project which “established a permanent hand papermaking facility” in the community. Prior to contact with outsiders, the Yanomami people did not record their stories on paper. Instead, this people group had a sign system that had its origins in protecting infants from harm. Using local pigments such as annatto (onoto in Spanish), parents would decorate their babies with protective symbols inspired by local flora and fauna. Similarly, at various special occasions Yanomami people would use intricately carved wood block stamps for ritual body decoration purposes.
In the first section of this exhibit book and paper MFA student Colleen McCulla, and Photography MFA student Robyn Day examine the role of animal imagery in Yanomami art. Select pieces include images representing caterpillars, as well as tigers hiding in the forest. These pieces were created by Sheroanawë Hakihiiwë on his visit to Columbia College’s Center for Book and Paper Arts in 2010. The designs are created through a hand papermaking technique known as “pulp painting”.
In the second section of the exhibit photography MFA student Sarah Hiatt, and interdisciplinary MA student DW McCraven explore the role of body painting and modification, with special attention to the use of wood block printing. To explore this idea further Sarah and DW created carved potato stamps featuring similar animals as the Yanomami woodblock prints.
The culmination of all these methods is best displayed in the final work in the exhibit, an artist book called Shapono. This book uses handmade paper and hand carved wood block prints in tandem, to tell the Yanomami creation story. This portion of the exhibit was put together by book and paper MFA students Willa Goettling and Lynn Elam, along with interdisciplinary MFA student Phil Worfel.
The three pieces displayed herein demonstrate the new techniques of papermaking that Laura brought to the Yanomami, as well as their traditional technique of woodblock printing, all while using the intricate symbol system, developed through body decoration, that draws on local jungle life. Through this newly catalysed art form the Yanomami were able to articulate and record their own local narratives in tangible way.
Throughout the history of colonialism, the colonizers have dictated the recording of history, and thus the Yanomami people have been doubly marginalized. Projects like the ones exhibited here allow the Yanomami to reclaim their history, and thereby pave the way to a new future that they determine and articulate.This power to record history takes them into a powerful world of self-determination and freedom from intellectual dominance.
Title page of Shapono, using woodblock printing as part of handmade paper process.
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DW McCraven & Sarah Hiatt, 2017, finished potato stamp images printed on journal paper.
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