By Raffaella May Fryer-Moreira, Fabiana Assis Fernandes | 10 November 2020
This project will document the material processes and technical knowledge through which Guarani and Kaiowá ceremonial houses (Oga Pysy) are constructed, the local cosmological frameworks that inform their architecture, and the ritual practices that these structures contain and enable. A broad range of digital media will be used in the process of documentation, including technologies of sensory immersion such as VR/360 video and ambisonic sound.
The Oga Pysy play a key role in Guarani and Kaiowá ceremonial practice, providing a physical space through which community members can establish a direct link to their central deity, Nhanderu Tupã. Within the ceremonial houses several rituals are performed which enable the Guarani and Kaiowá populations to perform seasonal ceremonies and rites which restore harmony with cosmological entities, and therefore ensure social and cultural harmony within the community. The physical architecture of the Oga Pysy, and the material components through which they are made, are directly informed by local cosmological frameworks and indigenous metaphysical knowledge. As a result, it is the local shaman (Nhanderu) who holds all the technical knowledge, understood as sacred knowledge, required to build the Oga Pysy. In the context of violent conflicts with the neighbouring non-indigenous population, reduced space and a lack of ecological resources has led to a reduced number of ceremonial houses being built, while a recent increase in religious intolerance has led to two ceremonial houses being violently destroyed in arson attacks over the last twelve months. The absence of an Oga Pysy is understood to result in social disharmony and a breakdown of community relations.
This project aims to use a range of digital media to produce detailed documentation of the material practices through which Guarani and Kaiowá ceremonial houses are built, and the social relations and cosmological paradigms that such houses enable and sustain. The digital media used will include VR/360 video, ambisonic sound recordings, photogrammetry, videogrammetry, technical diagrams and traditional digital video and photography. These digital documents will be valuable resources for museums and cultural institutions in the UK, Brazil, and internationally, for both research and educational purposes. A copy of these digital documents will be given to the source community, serving both as a historical archive which will enable the community to retain a record of existing yet endangered material practices, and the cosmological knowledge they contain, while also serving as a blueprint to ensure that these material practices, and the social and cosmological relations they articulate, are accessible for future generations to access and learn. The diversity of methods proposed will not only serve to ensure a rich historical record is established using the most sophisticated tools currently available, but will also serve to demonstrate the epistemic value of different digital mediums, and the urgent need for academic institutions to innovate existing methodologies through which research data is gathered, stored, and presented. The project PI is the co-founder and director of the UCL Multimedia Anthropology Lab, an interdisciplinary research network which seeks to innovate research methods through incorporating a range of digital technologies as part of research practice. This project will permit the practical demonstration of the epistemic value that different digital media afford within research methodologies, and therefore seeks to contribute towards the innovation of research methods and practice beyond the discipline of anthropology.
Raffaella May Fryer-Moreira, Ms, UCL Anthropology, University College London
Fabiana Assis Fernandes, Ms, Instituto para o Desenvolvimento da Arte e da Cultura (IDAC)
Location of Research:
Guarani & Kaiowá territories, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil