1 / 5       Martin Gusinde, Ulen, the male buffoon. His role is to entertain the Hain spectators. Hain ceremony, Sel’knam rite, 1923. Courtesy of Martin Gusinde/Anthropos Institut/Éditions Xavier Barral. © Rencontres Arles.
2 / 5       Martin Gasinde, Games to frighten the women. Yamana, 1919-1924. Courtesy of Martin Gusinde/Anthropos Institut/Éditions Xavier Barral. © Rencontres Arles.
3 / 5       During the visit to the exhibition The spirit of the Tierra del Fuego people by Martin Gusinde. © Stefania Biamonti/FPmag.
4 / 5       During the visit to the exhibition The spirit of the Tierra del Fuego people by Martin Gusinde. © Stefania Biamonti/FPmag.
5 / 5       During the visit to the exhibition The spirit of the Tierra del Fuego people by Martin Gusinde. © Stefania Biamonti/FPmag.

The spirit of the Tierra del Fuego people

The path winds through a simple and not very vibrant setting, full of dense and detailed texts, meticulous captions and, towards the bottom, of historical books, books and original textual equipment useful to frame the work of Martin Gusinde in the right historical perspective. Because despite the fact that some images leave you literally amazed for their composition and formal rigour, Gusinde was a photographer of contingency, certainly not for vocation.
Missionary priest and ethnologist, he was in fact the only one to carry out at the dawn of the twentieth century a detailed study of South American society Selk'nam, Yamana and Kawésqar, already considered endangered. Meticulous research that led him to put together some 1,200 photo shots and a mass of writings, notes and exhibits so consistent as to transform him in a short time in one of the top experts on the most archaic cultures in the extreme south of South America. After almost a century, everyone involved with indigenous people of the Tierra del Fuego cannot but run into the documentation produced by this German missionary with the illuminated eye – who later became a professor of Anthropology at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC – capable of opening a window into otherwise inaccessible worlds and to show myths, rituals and traditions effectively.
What strikes me as we wander through the halls of the Cloître Saint-Trophime is in fact not only the compositional rigour of his shots, in itself already amazing, but the precise methodology of work and the attention and respect towards otherness which this implies. Despite being a man of faith, Gusinde demonstrates with his images a participatory approach in line with the anthropological school of the period, as well as an extreme scientific rigour in reporting the images, and especially the black and white, which were inevitably silent.
An exhibition, which may not exalt at first glance, but if you consider it in a historical perspective it has much to say, apart from filling those who work in anthropology with happiness.

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THE SPIRIT OF THE TIERRA DEL FUEGO PEOPLE
by Martin Gusinde
Cloître Saint-Trophime | until August, 30th 2015
admission fee: 4,50 €

published on 2015-07-17 in NEWS / EXHIBITIONS

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