In 2018, the Wauja communities found their most sacred site desecrated. Kamukuwaká Cave is known as the “book of learning” to the fifteen indigenous communities of the Xingu Indigenous territory. The destruction of its unique petroglyphs is believed to be connected to ongoing tensions between indigenous and farming communities in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil.
People’s Palace Projects, in partnership with artist Nathaniel Mann, collaborated with the Tulukai Indigenous Association to create a recreation of the cave in Virtual Reality. This was possible thanks to a previous project involving Factum Foundation which created a facsimile of the cave in Madrid, based on photographs and 3D scans of the Cave before it was vandalised. As the facsimile could not be transported to Brazil, the virtual 3D reconstruction enables all 700 community members to revisit the cave virtually and pass down their indigenous knowledge.
The loss of cultural heritage is a global problem, whether it is through collateral or deliberate damage in warfare or a result of corporate destruction, civil strife, vandalism or neglect. Our built heritage and material culture can be recorded in writing, photography and video, but none of these forms can capture the experience of visiting a cultural site in person.
3D-scanning and virtual reality facsimiles of cultural heritage are currently our most effective tools for recording and preserving a site from future damage, but not all communities can afford nor have the skills to make 3D reconstructions. By providing solar panels, laptops and VR equipment this project taught the communities new skills and enabled access to the heritage.
The project was sustainable. Whereas previously team-members from the UK may have travelled to Brazil, this time almost everything was conducted via Zoom.
- As the Wauja communities did not have access to computers, the project was able to fund the installation of solar panels for the villages as well as provide laptops. This will have a long-lasting impact on the villages
- It was challenging for some of the Wauja community to get to grips with using virtual reality headsets and navigate the space.
- Having flexibility was key. It took time for the Wauja communities to agree things between them, and because of their remote location delivering equipment often took longer than expected. It’s important to build in plenty of time into the project and be prepared to adapt to events.
- Tulukai Indigenous Association are creating an animation involving Kamukuwaká Cave for schoolchildren
- Project members are attending the Copenhagen documentary festival
The partners said:
“One of the things I'm most proud of is the way we managed the project to incorporate and reflect Wauja decision making process in a culturally sensitive way. We managed to build a flexible framework around this project which allowed the wider Wauja community to have their voices heard and be a genuine part of the decision making processes. Thanks to a well managed budget and considerate partnerships we could afford flexibility in both our timescales and outcomes, this allowed us to take the hits of flash-floods or wild pigs running riot in the village, or not being able to connect because of the solar panels not being charged. Our project framework meant that we had anticipated these kinds of setbacks and we could make adjustments and allowances for them."
Nathaniel Mann, artist
“I am proud to be able to record my own culture as an indigenous person from my own point of view and not through the eyes of people from outside the culture. As indigenous people we have to be anthropologists, as well, to be able to do that.”
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