the Land of Goodness and Beauty:
Paintings of Mapuche Dreams of Heaven"
The main source of the images of these paintings are the special dreams narrated
by the Mapuche people when they visit the wenu mapu, the place of extraordinary
beauty where their ancestors and gods reside.
I recorded these dreams during ethnographic research in 1985-1987, and 1990-91.
The Mapuche, a South American indigenous group with an estimated population
of one million, live primarily on reservations in southern Chile practicing
small scale farming. In spite of the many cultural changes that the Mapuche
have experienced since their relocation to reservations at end of the 19th
century, the Mapuche maintain a strong belief in dreams, as I had found in
my studies. Dreams are viewed by most Mapuche as being journeys taken by the
soul while the person is asleep. Dreams in which the soul visits the wenu
mapu are considered to be important to the dreamers because of the contact
with the sacred. Shamans and ordinary people benefit from contact with the
sacred in that they can obtain power and advice on all kinds of matters. These
dreams are proudly narrated in rituals and social gatherings.
The exhibit shows my depictions of heaven by several narrators. Following
the Mapuche tradition of physically locating heaven in different places, the
narrators represent heaven as located at the bottom of the ocean, up in the
sky, and in the crater of volcanoes. Through the narration of these types of
dreams, the narrators not only share their sense of the beautiful, but also
they express a social commentary of their reality. Although heavens are not
perfect places, they provide solace from the harsh realities of the everyday
life, a place to correct everyday injustices, and to alter the order of everyday
forms of perceived power.
--Lydia Nakashima Degarrod
Chief Robustiano's Dream
Machi Tomasa's Dream
All text and images © Lydia Nakashima Degarrod.