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Ethnographic Museum

Without honey you have nothing to eat. On the bee knowledge of Ayoréode, Gran Chaco, South America

On bee knowledge of Ayoréode

22 November to 30 January 2022


“If you are hungry, you should Iet out wind from your anus,”
Anteater said to Tapir, “so you get something to eat!”
So Tapir did, and what came out was honey from Ajidabia bees.
That is why nowadays there is honey to be found in the forest.”

– Samane, Ayoréo narrator of this myth

From this or another way honey came into the world of the Ayoréode people – a hunter-nomadic society in the dry forests of the Gran Chaco. Their territory once stretched across eastern Bolivia and northern Paraguay. Wild honey was a rich and varied staple food for them. Extensive knowledge about wild bees and their products was deeply rooted, almost embodied and materialised in objects. It was transformed into myths, songs and stories through which the knowledge was preserved, remembered, updated and passed on.

For 70 years now, Ayoréode have been experiencing the incursion of missionaries and settlers in the Gran Chaco. They have witnessed land theft and deforestation by agricultural corporations and raw material giants. Having lived in the forests largely by themselves before, they are now doing what nomads have always done: adapting to the changes. One after the other, individual Ayoréo groups have decided to leave their familiar living environment and sedentarise as well. The venture of transforming from a mobile to a settled life is hardly imaginable and has not yet been researched. How are they adapting their knowledge? Our exhibition is arranged around the bee knowledge of Ayoréode – with objects, photographs, films, sounds and expert voices, it creates a space to think about one’s own and completely different world designs.


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