Decolonizing Museums: Tupinambá feathered cloaks in European Museums
Some of the most famous European museums, started as ‘cabinets of curiosity’, with pieces travelers would gather from all over the world. Today, great part of their collections is composed of pieces of traditional peoples from colonized lands. Such pieces, produced from different epistemes, and with...
|Religious Materials: Emic Perspectives - Etic Constructions - Museum Classifications. REDIM Conference 2021
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|Some of the most famous European museums, started as ‘cabinets of curiosity’, with pieces travelers would gather from all over the world. Today, great part of their collections is composed of pieces of traditional peoples from colonized lands. Such pieces, produced from different epistemes, and within different ontologies, classified from Western point of view as things, are in many cases, for those who made it living beings and not things.
Although this ‘things’ are highly appreciated and well taken care in Western museums, they are not shown to the public as what they really are in the terms of those who produced them. This dynamic of European appropriation and re-signification still hierarchizes epistemologies, keeping ‘South’ or non-Western cosmoperceptions at the bottom of list. Also, such ‘things’ may be, even today, be a great loss to traditional peoples. I explore, as an example, the case of Tupinambás, a traditional Brazilian tribe. Although some of them survived colonization period, they had all their ritual feathered cloaks taken away, among other ‘things’. Along with such ‘things’ the know how to make them was also affected. Here I show Celia Tupinambá, a member of the tribe visiting a French museum and getting to know a piece made by her ancestors, now kept in the basement of a French museum. As Tupinambás consider the cloaks as beings they think the cloaks should be together with them. Not being able to retrieve the actual pieces, Celia Tupinambá has thought of a project to teach other Tupinambás how to make feathered cloaks, according to the cloak she saw at the French museum.