Cartoons to tell the legend of the origin of potatoes, corn and cassava

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Legend has it that a tinku (confrontation, in Quechua) between the Charcas and Chayanta towns gave rise to an important daily food. The love between Sara Chojllu, from the Charcas, and Huayru, from the Chayanta, was only a small cure in the midst of the conflict between the two communities. A new dispute, like every year, between the different ethnic groups broke the tranquility of the couple. Sara accompanied Huayru in combat, where stones and arrows crossed the sky. The young woman’s father, the best archer of her people, shot an arrow that hit her daughter’s chest, causing her instant death. A short time after being buried, thanks to the tears on both sides and the soil of her ancestors, a plant began to sprout from Sara’s chest, “green and fresh”, according to what they say, in the shape of an arrow. This, seeing the sunlight, produced a smiling fruit with sweet teeth, in memory of the mom sarah or, in Quechua, the eldest daughter of the corn.

The potatocassava and the corn They are foods that are part of the regular American diet. To a greater or lesser extent they can be found from the Arctic Ocean, in the north, to the Diego Ramírez Islands (Chile), in the south. But what are its origins? how did they become power supply that comes from the earth to the table of more than a billion inhabitants on the continent? Of course there are scientific explanations, but also legends like the one above, which tells of the origin of this cereal. The National Museum of Ethnography of Bolivia (MUSEF) recovers the oral tradition of the original indigenous peoples about the creation and start of these foods, in addition to other myths, and presents them through animated short films.

The shorts are part of the exhibition ‘UYWAY UYWAÑA: Mutual Parenting for Life’, an exhibition that opened on August 22 and will be available until June 2023. The ticket price is five bolivianos for national visitors (less than one dollar) and 20 for foreigners (almost three dollars).

The idea for the animated shorts is related to the project MUSEF, closer to you, a portable version of the museum to bring Primary and Secondary students from rural and peri-urban areas closer. The objective of these productions, available online through the official channel of the museum on YouTube, is to access this type of population through a language that is “simpler, but at the same time more striking”. “Animated short films have become the best format for disseminating cultures through the mythical construction that is being generated in different spaces in our country,” Elvira Espejo, director of MUSEF, explains to América Futura.

the legend of the corn, The legend of the potato, The legend of the cassava Y Weenhayek legend of the origin of fire and vegetablesare the productions that They are part of the collection made by the MUSEF, which last year responded to the theme of “mutual upbringing and feeding”. The first series of animations that were made in 2021 were linked to languages ​​and poetics, while this year’s will be related to music and sounds.

According to Espejo, in reference to the term of “mutual parenting”, the stories rescue the principle of maximum care and reciprocity with the earth; that of a community that thinks first of the whole before its own well-being. “They reflect the cycle of life, which is similar to that of farming, where death gives way to a new way of life and abundance. And, of course, in all the stories we see the relationships of balance and complementarity between non-human, human and more-than-human beings”, he adds.

Every story, like the legend of the corn —based on the investigations of Vicente Terán Erquicia—, recovers the work of researchers and ethnographers from the beginning of the 20th century, or even before, who narrate these myths in their records according to the oral memory that could be found in different contexts. Although the origin narratives may be different according to each culture, the intention of the MUSEF was to focus the work on larger linguistic groups so that they can feel represented, for example, cassava with The Guaranithe corn with the quechuas in the south of the continent and the myth of the potato with the Aymaras.

A still from ‘Weenhayek Legend of the Origin of Fire and Vegetables’.Adriana Garcia / Melanie Fernandez

Each short film represented approximately four months of work, since it implies, at the same time, curating archive photographs, drawings, ceramics, images from museum catalogs and other inputs with which the illustrators and entertainers. Adriana García, one of the illustrators of the project, explains that one of the challenges was to represent the places, as well as knowing how to abstract the clothing, the tools and that even so they are closely related to the photographic references provided by the team.

“I feel that the textiles that are in the mountains, the flora, the fauna, the voices and the music have a strong essence. On the other hand the animation is of type cutout (variation of animation technique with cutouts) that goes very well and allows to give naturalness and flow to the movements. It is the sum of all these elements that gives the result that freshness and originality”, affirms García.

One of the objectives of the project animated musef for this year’s creations was the preservation of the oral memorial, due to all the kinship, political, economic, gender, and religious implications of ancestral cultures, explains Espejo, who says that “the myth has among its contexts reconstructions and elements that have been part of how societies were organized in the past”.

The director influences both the worldview of the peoples of the lowlands and those of the highlands. Culture and nature are one and this allows respect for the environment in which one lives, creating a balance. “By breaking this harmony in modern societies, we deplete our natural environment, we exhaust it. Unfortunately, we are heading for mass suicide. These references to the past can help us reflect on relationships of reciprocity and balance”.

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Cartoons to tell the legend of the origin of potatoes, corn and cassava

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