In 2013 a team of researchers in collaboration with the community in the municipality of Coronel José Dias, around Serra da Capivara National Park, Piauí-Brazil, created the Olho D 'Água Institute and since then has been developing research and didactic experiments with the communities. The project entitled Arte na Serra aims to engage communities in the archaeological universe through archaeological, ethnographic experimentation, museum exhibitions and guided tours of archaeological and historical sites.
Our World Heritage
The Serra da Capivara National Park (PNSC), located in south east Piauí, Brazil, around the municipalities of Coronel José Dias, São Raimundo Nonato, João Costa and Brejo do Piauí, has the highest concentration of prehistoric sites in Brazil, with a significant collection of rock art in shelters and in the open, making it of great scientific relevance to the understanding of human occupation in the American continent. PNSC is a public domain Federal Conservation Unit for Integral Use, managed by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) under the Ministry of the Environment (MMA), in co-management with the American Man Foundation Museum (FUMDHAM). Its basic objective is the preservation of natural ecosystems of great ecological relevance and scenic beauty, enabling the conduct of scientific research and the development of activities of environmental education and interpretation, recreation in contact with nature and ecological and cultural tourism. The rock art collection of the PNSC is one of the markers of the cultural evolution of the human groups which inhabited the region. The graphic scenes painted on sandstone rocks reveal a communication system (PESSIS, 1992) of these peoples. Given the importance of the rock art complex, the Serra da Capivara National Park has been recognized as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) since 1991, and by the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute (IPHAN) as an Archaeological, Ethnographic and Landscape Cultural Heritage since 1993. Connected to this prehistoric collection, the region has an important immaterial collection: knowledge, cultural manifestations, traditional techniques. These tell the history and traditions of the current people of Serra da Capivara, and a genuinely Brazilian environmental heritage: the vegetation of the Caatinga biome, with an endemic flora and fauna; sandstone walls shaped by the action of time that look more like works of art carved by nature. Given the relevance of the cultural / natural heritage of Serra da Capivara, it is important for communities to recognize the symbolic value of this heritage, because through this recognition and respect for their own roots, the individual will be able to develop respect for themselves himself and history, and consequently, the cultural heritage of his place. Extraversion of knowledge generated from community research is needed to promote integration, belonging, ownership, safeguarding and social development, even from shared and integrated initiatives made with the community rather than the community.
Based on this understanding, the Olho D 'Água Institute has been developing several initiatives, including the Arte na Serra project.
Art Design In The Saw
In 2013, the Eye of the Water Institute (IODA) was born in the municipality of Coronel José Dias-PI, a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) created by the community as a result of a scientific project on Cultural Environment. IODA's main objective is to promote, conduct and disseminate studies related to the territory of the PNSC. This is to foster the strengthening and perpetuation of culture, in all its regional manifestations, such as its traditional knowledge, resource use and natural networks of socio-political relations, in synergy with archaeological studies (Rodrigues, 2013; 2014). Given this understanding, the didactic experience Arte na Serra: heritage experiences, developed by the Olho D 'Água Institute Association, aims to engage the community in the archaeological universe through archaeological, ethnographic experiments, guided tours and audiovisual exhibits, showing how men at different chronological periods (from prehistory to the present day) used nature's resources to make their everyday objects and tools, paint on rocky walls, and build their houses. Thus, there is a community involvement in the dissemination of knowledge, appropriation, preservation and recognition of the archaeological and historical cultural heritage of the region.
Paths Travelled: Preamble
The workshops are developed with children and young people from 7 to 17 years old. These took place at the Institute's headquarters on a rotating (itinerant) basis in schools and public spaces. Our main audience is the school, so we contacted a partnership of the municipal education department asking school principals and teachers to mobilize workshops. In the municipality of Coronel José Dias, headquarters of the Institute, from 2013 to 2018, the workshops were held for more than 700 students, repeatedly (we always added a new element to the actions); In 2018, we promoted the ‘Art in the Saw’, as part of the worldwide programme of the international day of archaeology organized by the Archaeological Institute of America. The event was open to the entire community of the municipality and we had a contingent of 300 people. In early 2019, we began a National exchange project with the Santa Cruz College of São Paulo, which annually visits the Serra da Capivara National Park and includes the workshops of heritage experiences at the Institute. We assisted 600 students in three seasons. This was a collaboration of volunteer experts in archaeology, visitors to the Tribos da Capivara Association and “citizen scientists” that is, knowledgeable people from the community who have traditional knowledge of land management. All activities are maintained through their own resources or by timely help from the collaborators such as the municipality of Coronel José Dias and in the Point of Culture A Cara Alegre do Piauí. It is important to highlight that in the municipal school curriculum there is the discipline PARNA Serra da Capivara and, therefore, the Institute develops joint actions with teachers and students, focusing on the Arte na Serra project.
Talking about Prehistory and History
The workshops present the discourse about the history of Homo Sapiens in the national territory and the various traits arising from its material culture. Therefore, we address the importance of archaeology as a social science that studies the human past from material traces and the study of landscape to understand what the environment was like in the past and how change happened over time. We also discuss the role of the archaeologist as the expert in interpreting these collections. Henceforth, we infer in the discussion concepts of inheritance, memory and affectivity, to debate the importance of preserving these material and immaterial traces. Notions of legislation are incorporated into the presentation, showing that there are laws, decrees and recommendations governing the protection of Brazilian and world cultural heritage. To this end, we make use of videos, photographs and demonstration of archaeological pieces. These are derived from didactic experiments such as lithic, ceramic and stone plates painted with ochre pigments. Here, cognitive development is stimulated, allowing subjects to construct their own concepts and opinions, understanding that in the past men and women lived collectively in harmony with their environment, and that only respecting biodiversity will ensure the continuity of natural resources, the source necessary for human survival. In addition, we encourage reflection on our own daily attitudes and the preservation of the environment in which we operate. (Rodrigues, 2011; 2014).
Living in Prehistory
After explaining the importance of studying material culture, its development in understanding human evolution and recommendations for preservation, we set out on time travel, inviting students to live in the prehistory of Serra da Capivara.
Using clay and vegetable fibres, participants create utensils for their survival; ochre and ligands should communicate with other groups in the present and future. The workshop participants simulate past activities (lifestyles) using elements of nature as follows:
- Hands in Clay: Using the clay and roll technique, participants reproduce ceramic vases and other objects.
- Braiding the Caroá: Using the fibers of caroá - neoglasiovia variegata (from the Bromeliad family, typical of the Caatinga biome), the participants make ropes, baskets and other traditional objects from the region.
- Painting the community: Using the checkered powder and the binder, derived from egg white, we use stone supports, walls or craft paper panels to express everyday life through drawings, as well as the rock art left on the Sierra's sandstone walls of Capybara.
This is the most important moment of the workshop, as they add paint to paint on the stone slabs; The handling and modelling of clay and fibre, concerns, curiosities, interpretations and discoveries provoke an understanding of our existence and evolution. Participants raise important questions about how their ancestors lived, how they painted on these rocky walls, what traces were on rocks, how they lived there, what they ate, how they played, how they cured disease, and so on. There is an intense synergy with the knowledge shared in the workshops and direct contact with the archaeological and landscape heritage of Serra da Capivara.
Archaeologist for a day
Participants are encouraged to become archaeologists for a day. Initially, the Institute staff sets up a space for excavation by burying objects (replicas) underground. With gloves, brushes, brushes, chips, twine, trowels, shovels and buckets in their hands, the children delimit the site and begin the discovery of artefacts (replicas): pottery, bones, stones and charcoal. At the beginning there is a playful discussion about the importance of these objects to understand the history of humanity. They are provoked to reflect on the transformation of the environment, realizing that the creation and transformation of objects are intrinsically linked. When analysing the objects in the laboratory (we set up a space with a table, callipers, paints, brushes, pens, cameras, among others), we raise a deeper discussion (with a didactic language) of how the objects reflect beliefs, negotiations, exchanges and uses of a particular group that produced and used it. In this regard, we seek to associate this understanding with the objects of our most recent ancestors (parents and grandparents), with the following question: Name an ancient object in your home and / or the home of your grandparents? The audience connects with their family context and begins to cite old objects and associated stories. Thus, it is clear that participants understand better the functionality and purpose of objects when they “reveal about affective, social relationships, nostalgia, conflicts [...]” (Gonzalez-Ruibal, 2015). This association allows us to understand a succession of information about artefacts, their historical time context, forms, uses, technologies and their evolution.
Popular constructive techniques
In the memory record research of the people of Serra da Capivara, we identified the techniques of construction of the houses of mud and hand-to-stick mud, consisting of the intertwining of vertical and horizontal (wooden) sticks tied with Caroá fibers and lined with crushed clay (uses water to make the mixture); The cover is made with Bark of Pau (caatinga tree) or palm (carnauba straw). Initially, we performed the entire ethnographic record of the techniques and then incorporated this action into workshops for the public. In the workshop, the public build the walls, intertwines with the fibre, kneads the clay with his feet, and covers the walls with his hands. As a reflection, we discuss the techniques, the types of housing, the reflection of the techniques and the passage of knowledge.
Field Activities: Appropriation
In order to provide direct contact of children and young people with the archaeological heritage of the Serra da Capivara National Park organized visits to various touristic circuits of the Park: Boqueirão da Pedra Furada, Capivara Gorge and surrounding Serrotes Calcários da Bastiana are offered. The visits provide a richer and more enjoyable learning, because it is the moment when children and young people, in loco, raise important questions about how the territory, the landscape, the archaeological sites and cave paintings exist.
Scientific studies on the results of archaeological research should transcend thesis libraries, academic discussions and gain a more didactic and practical dialogue in society. Extremely complex and comprehensive research is of no use if the community to which this past belongs or at least indirectly related does not participate in the research and is unaware of its results (Robrahn-González, 2006). It is understood that education is eminently important in order to establish affective bonds, arouse a sense of belonging and, consequently, conscious practices of preservation of archaeological heritage. The Arte na Serra project offers the opportunity for children and young people to create their own understanding of their heritage through critical and citizen analysis. Once they are brought into the world of archaeology, allowing them to know the societies of the past, their functioning and their transformations over time. With this, they are provoked to analyse their current ways of life, to formulate new concepts, understanding that we are part of this evolutionary process and the transformations that occur in the environment, reflecting, even where we came from, what we did, how we did it, and what we have become today. For the future, we are currently renovating an historic building to house the Institute's activities. The idea is to build a space for heritage experiences by expanding the range of archaeological and ethnographic experiments. It will be a space for community expression, like an incubator that transmits knowledge. The institute does not have permanent resources for its maintenance, and this is an imperative for the continuity of its projects.
To the members of the Olho D 'Água Institute, Pequi do Cerrado Institute and the community of Colonel José Dias, Colonel José Dias City Hall, Cara Alegre Piauí Culture Point, Santa Cruz College (SP), Professor of Environmental Tourism and Professor Sheila Mendonça from Colégio Santa Maria (WSF Cajazeiras) for supporting our Institute.
Translated by Lucas Bernalli Fernandes Rocha
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