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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Join the Florida Museum of Natural History and artisans from the Ye’kwana indigenous culture in Venezuela from 1 to 4 p.m. Jan. 22 and 25 for traditional basket weaving and carving demonstrations.

During the free events, Ye’kwana Simon Caura will create a stool reminiscent of one used by a shaman, or spiritual ruler, and Aurora Rodriguez Caura, one of the founders of Kanwasumi, a women’s basket weaving cooperative in Venezuela, will demonstrate basket weaving. The two also plan to speak with visitors about Ye’kwana culture and answer questions about their traditions and history.

“Our mission is to educate people about indigenous cultures and the troubling issues they face in a global world,” said Laurie Wilkins, president of Earth Bound, a non-profit organization that works with artisan and craft cooperatives and traditional peoples across the world, including the Ye’kwana, and a cosponsor of the program. “Basketry is an intricate part of daily life and more than 30 different baskets are made and used by both men and women,” she said.

Examples of traditional baskets and photos highlighting Ye’kwana village life in an isolated landscape along rivers and lowland tropical forests also will be displayed.

The Ye’kwana are known as the “People of the River” because of their exceptional ability to build canoes and navigate rivers.

“Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the People of the River and some of their traditions,” said Betty Dunckel, director of the Florida Museum’s Center for Informal Science Education. “The program complements the museum’s desired impact of inspiring people to value the cultural heritage of our diverse world. This event also provides an opportunity to collaborate with campus units and Earth Bound. We have found from previous programs that there is a lot of interest from our community in presentations of this nature.”

Only about 3,000 Ye’kwana remain according to Earth Bound, but the culture has maintained many of its ancient traditions including basket weaving, carving and using dugout canoes.

The artisans visit is co-sponsored by the University of Florida Center for Latin American Studies, UF Tropical Conservation and Development program, Earth Bound and the Florida Museum.

The visit coincides with a reception to view the exhibit “Trading Traditions,” from 7 to 9 pm. Jan. 20 at Grinter Gallery on the UF campus. The exhibit explores the rich basket and fiber art of the Ye’kwana of Venezuela and Ayoreo people of Bolivia.

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Source: Betty Dunckel, 352-273-2088,
Writer: Logan Gerber and Leeann Bright
Media contact: Paul Ramey, 352-273-2054,