Tales from the Amazon – Evelyn Anca

Evelyn (Evi) Anca, a multidisciplinary artist, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in primatology from Oxford Brookes University. The field of Primatology deals with the study of primates, combining research methods from many fields: zoology, biology, ecology, psychology, anthropology and archaeology. Evi’s main field of expertise is human-wildlife interactions and primates in particular. As early as her undergraduate degree, Anca conducted an impressive study in Papua New Guinea, where she explored the role of local cultural values in the relationships with nature. In addition, Anca examined the emotional intelligence, reciprocity and the display of emotions in two ethnic groups in Papua New Guinea, compared to the society in Israel. This study strengthened her passion for anthropology and conservation and paved the way for the fascinating contemporary study entitled:

 Ethnoprimatology of the Shipibo of the upper Ucayali River, Perú

The exhibition presented in the gallery was inspired by this research, which was conducted in the Peruvian Amazon, and shows the existential and harmonious cultural connection between indigenous Shipibo (“Shipi” – monkey and “bo” – plural/people) and the variety of monkey species sharing their landscape. This harmony has existed for thousands of years and is becoming fragile. The heart of the exhibition is twelve artworks hand-painted by the artist. On wood slices of different sizes and shapes, thirteen species of monkeys living alongside the Shipibo up the Ucayali River in Peru are painted with acrylic. The inspiration for each painting of a different monkey species comes from the stories of the Shipibo, the observations of the researcher and the artist and her personal experience while staying in the forest and the indigenous community. The choice of the cut slices of wood used as a substrate for the works indicates the necessary connection between the monkeys and the trees, as they live in the canopy and conveys a poignant message about deforestation, one of the biggest threats to the monkey populations in the Ucayali and all over the world and their natural habitat. Deforestation and habitat loss threaten the relationship between the Shipibo and the monkeys and Shipibo livelihoods, depending on forest resources.

The exhibition tells the story of a great primate diversity found near and within the Shipibo territory. Exhibition visitors are exposed to howler and spider monkeys, hearing their calls in the soundtrack accompanying the exhibition, the gentle singing of the spider monkey as well as the howls of the howler monkey and become familiar with the myth that tells how the howler got its voice and the spider monkey got its 4 fingers. The viewer learns about the myth of the MASHI ISO, a giant and mythical spider monkey with a five-meter-long tail that kidnaps people and takes them to the treetops and learns about the warning of the Shipibo elders not to fall into his hands. In addition, viewers of the exhibition are exposed to the myth that there are monkeys who, at night, impersonate humans and come to the tribe’s parties, drink Masato (Masato is a traditional fermented alcoholic drink made from cassava), spend time with the women of the tribe and in the morning turn back into monkeys. The exhibition viewer gets to know the white capuchin, the monkey that communicates in the tribe’s stories about sex and is associated with the sentiment of jealousy. According to the myth, it is the monkey who taught the Shipibo about sexual intercourse, and thanks to him, the tribe’s population grew and expanded. The viewer of the exhibition will also get to know PEPA, a pet spider monkey that lived in the community, and the other species of monkeys, preferred pets, usually seen wrapped around the head and shoulders of the Shipibo people, and when they die, they are buried as family members.

An example of Shipibo traditional art is also presented in the exhibition. Patterns are embroidered on large sheets of cotton that turn out to be a typical script. Every such work of art is an embroidered score. The embroidered marks on the cloth are notes that create a unique song for each work of art. The music that emerges from this art is meant to heal and give spiritual expression to ceremonies. Each work of art sounds different, and the soundtrack accompanying the exhibition also expresses this music. Besides the notes, other shapes are embroidered on the fabric – ICARO, which reflect the indigenous cosmology and are influenced by the hallucinations created by drinking Ayahuasca. The soundtrack emanating from these artworks is usually sung by women and accompanies the Ayahuasca ceremonies. The ICARO forms are expressed in the artworks and engraved on the surface of the wood, framing the cultural context of the monkeys in the Ucayali forests, deep in the Peruvian Amazon.

The works will also include sculptures made of plastic waste since the plastic pollution in the heart of the Amazon represents another major and significant threat to the living environment shared by the Shipibo and the monkeys and endangers human, animal and plant health.

This is a diverse and fascinating exhibition that presents to the Israeli audience the reality of a remote and wild world in immediate danger of extinction.

Dr. Galia Dochin Arieli

Global Art Gallery


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