In search of the seed beads

a world made of beads

By Museu do Índio

Cover of the exhibition catalog On the way to the beads - a world that is made up of beads. (2016) by Helena de Barros, Maria Lúcia BragaMuseu do Índio

Frontage of the Museu do Índio (2016) by Paulo MúmiaMuseu do Índio

Museu do Índio

In Search of the Miçanga: A World Made of Beads is an exhibition at the Museum of the Indian. It was curated by the anthropologist Els Lagrou and opened in 2015. On display in the large building at the heart of the museum in Botafogo are 723 objects plus films showing twenty-four ethnic groups from Brazil and a further eighteen from Africa, Asia, and elsewhere in the Americas.

00:00

Bead threads (2009) by Kayapó PeopleMuseu do Índio

The term "miçanga" is derived from "masanga," a word of African origin meaning "tiny glass beads." Peoples from all over the world, from north to south and east to west, create stunning works of art with these trinkets. More than a mere object or concept, however, the miçanga is purely relational and can only be defined in the meeting between distant worlds. When these tiny beads are brought together, the world is "created," like a huge network of interconnected pathways in which beads of all colors, whether few or many, or transported by caravel, mule, or airplane, are transformed into ornaments, fetish objects, and works of art.

Christopher Columbus arrives in Haiti (1528) by Théodore De BryMuseu do Índio

The miçanga played a key role in the relationship between indigenous groups and European explorers, from Christopher Columbus's voyage to the islands of the Caribbean in 1492 to the French adventurers who traded with the Tupinambá along the Brazilian coast in the 16th century. Brought on European ships, there was no end to the flow of glass beads reaching the shores of the Americas, where they were traded for wood, skins, and other products.

Marshal Rondon with the Paresi (1913) by Major LuizThomaz ReisMuseu do Índio

Kayapó necklace (2009) by Kayapó PeopleMuseu do Índio

Kayapó 

Kayapó is the name given to the Mebêngôkre, which means "the men from the waterhole." They live along the banks of the Xingu River and its tributaries in nine Indigenous Territories, stretching from the south of Pará to the north of Mato Grosso in central Brazil.

Beadwork workshop (2015) by Paulo MúmiaMuseu do Índio

Among the Mebêngôkre, beadwork is a task done by women and they begin learning the skill as young girls. It is the women who choose the colors and decide the shapes of the bead ornaments, but their artwork is used by the whole tribe at their feasts.

Wôrekà bracelets (2014) by Thiago OliveiraMuseu do Índio

In present day rituals, two major new figures have emerged: the "Queens" and the "Misses." The Queens are beautifully adorned young girls who are sent to greet government officials. The Misses are young girls chosen to represent their village in the inter-village beauty contest held as part of the Day of the Indian festivities in the small city of São Félix do Xingu in Pará.

Young Kayapó (2015) by Paulo MúmiaMuseu do Índio

Kayapó necklace (2009) by Kayapó PeopleMuseu do Índio

In early pieces, it was used merely as a detail in warrior armbands made from raw cotton, or in shoulder straps woven from tree bark fiber. In modern pieces, it has become the main raw material used in weaving armbands, gaiters, shoulder straps, and slings.

Leader Kayapó (2015) by Paulo MúmiaMuseu do Índio

Huni Kuin bead panel (2015) by Huni Kuin womenMuseu do Índio

Kaxinawá 

The Kaxinawá call themselves "Huni kuin," which means "real men" or "people with familiar customs." They live in an area covering the Upper Juruá, Purus, and the Javari Valley. They are members of the Pano linguistic family, whose rainforest tribes live in the Brazilian states of Acre and south Amazonas, as well as in a part of eastern Peru extending from the foot of the Andes to the Brazilian border.

Huni Kuin women (2011) by Fabiano Txana Bane Huni Kuin, Deborah Castor, Jordan river women's associationMuseu do Índio

Huni Kuin women (2011) by Fabiano Txana Bane Huni Kuin, Deborah Castor, Associação das mulheres do Rio Jordão.Museu do Índio

Their patterns imitate animal skins such as the boa constrictor, or other animal parts such as a scorpion's spine, a monkey's finger, an alligator's tail, or a parrot's eye.

Weaving with beads (2011) by Deborah CastorMuseu do Índio

Kaxinawá bead weaving features the body painting and cotton weaving based on the primordial skin of the boa constrictor Yube. She is the master of all designs and the life-giving flows that create all forms.

Kashinawá necklaces (2011) by Deborah CastorMuseu do Índio

Snail bead necklaces (2014) by Marubo PeopleMuseu do Índio

Marubo

They live along the upper stretches of the Curuçá and Ituí Rivers and in the Javari basin in the Javari Valley.

Beadwork workshop (2015) by Paulo MúmiaMuseu do Índio

Stalks of snail beads (2014) by Marubo PeopleMuseu do Índio

Their snail-shell beads are being replaced by PVC, although this new material still goes through the same artisanal production stages.

Manufacture of beads (2015) by Paulo MúmiaMuseu do Índio

Beadwork workshop (2015) by Paulo MúmiaMuseu do Índio

The Marubo prefer to use drawings in their body painting, clothing, and everyday objects such as sieves and ceramics.

PVC bead belt (2012) by Marubo PeopleMuseu do Índio

Bracelet detail (2015) by Wayana peopleMuseu do Índio

Wayana

A people from the Karib linguistic group. They live in the border region between Brazil (the Paru de Leste River in Pará), Suriname (the Tapanahoni and Paloemeu Rivers), and French Guiana (the upper Maroni River and its tributaries the Tampok and the Marouini).

Basketry making (2009) by Lúcia van VelthemMuseu do Índio

Bead loom (2015) by Lúcia van VelthemMuseu do Índio

Waitakala ritual (2012) by Lúcia van VelthemMuseu do Índio

The Wayana incorporate foreign designs, introduced by Catholic and Protestant missionaries in the 19th century, into their bead-woven ornaments. The designs used in their adornments are the result of this cultural appropriation.

Bead overlapping belt (2011) by Wayana PeopleMuseu do Índio

Beads bracelet (2015) by Wayana PeopleMuseu do Índio

In Wayana mythology, as in the legends of other tribes, the beads come from magic trees, which had disappeared for many, many years but were returned to indigenous peoples by the European settlers.

Beads necklace (2011) by Wayana PeopleMuseu do Índio

Beads necklace (2014) by Ana Gabriela AmorimMuseu do Índio

Krahô

The Krahô live in the northeast of the State of Tocantins, in the Indigenous Territory of Kraholândia, between the municipalities of Goiatins and Itacajá. This area lies between the Manoel Alves Grande and the Manoel Alves Pequeno rivers, which are tributaries along the eastern bank of the Tocantins River.

Dilena Hacàc (2012) by Sueli AcàkwyiMuseu do Índio

The Krahô mix beads with seeds as well as incorporating other elements such as metal Saint Medals.

Beads necklace (2014) by Ana Gabriela AmorimMuseu do Índio

Beads bracelets (2014) by Ana Gabriela AmorimMuseu do Índio

The diverse designs found in the bead ornaments reflect each woman's own creativity and thought process.

Beads bracelets (2014) by Ana Gabriela AmorimMuseu do Índio

Weaving necklaces (2012) by Rosemira Hacàc KrahôMuseu do Índio

Nowadays, when making ornaments for themselves, the Krahô prefer colored beads. In a case of role reversal, natural seeds such as coco grass are more often used when making ornaments for outsiders.

Beads choker (2014) by Ana Gabriela AmorimMuseu do Índio

Detail of wetaana Karajá strap (2011) by Karaja PeopleMuseu do Índio

Karajá

The Iny, as the Karajá call themselves, live on Bananal Island and along a large strip of land along the Araguaia river valley. Their villages are found on Bananal Island, and near the lakes and tributaries of the Araguaia and Javaés Rivers.

Karajá boys (2010) by Chang Whan MaiaMuseu do Índio

Myrani, or the breastplates used in rituals, are the hallmark of the Iny. Nowadays, these Iny breastplates are made entirely from beads but in the days before the Iny had access to glass beads, they were made from red, white, and black seeds. The motifs used on the myrani come from the Iny repertoire of drawings, and are also used for seats and body painting.

Girls from the Hãwalò village (2010) by Chang Whan MaiaMuseu do Índio

Beads and feathers are two much-used elements and figure greatly in the Iny's appreciation of beauty. The women make the ornaments, which are then used by the adult men, boys, girls, and small children. Particularly remarkable are the lokura woku, which are necklaces made from various sized monochrome beads, and the myrani, which are rectangular breastplates.

Confection of beadwork (2015) by Paulo MúmiaMuseu do Índio

For Iny artisans, the colored beads encourage their creativity and their quest for beautiful shapes. With these tiny beads, the young Iny also make bracelets, necklaces, and pendants in the shape of small animals and insects.

Karajá girl (2011) by Chang Whan MaiaMuseu do Índio

Muwaju Kumaadakä a’ködö (2012) by Jumarina YekuanaMuseu do Índio

Ye'kuana

The Brazilian contingent of the Ye'kuana tribe is split into three communities living on the banks of the Auaris and Uraricoera rivers, in the northeast of the State of Roraima, along the border with Venezuela. The Ye’kuana community in Auaris, with around 330 people, is the largest in Brazil.

Muwaju Köda'dai (2012) by Cecília YekuanaMuseu do Índio

For the Yekuana, wearing beads means being dressed and becoming human. Babies are given their first set of bead adornments when they are four months old as part of the "Adornment" ritual.

Weaving with beads (2015) by Paulo MúmiaMuseu do Índio

Belt of beads (2015) by Yekuana PeopleMuseu do Índio

Wanasedu, creator of all things and master of the world, made the "mayuudu" (or miçanga) beads for his grandson, Kawmaashi. He went up to the heavens to look for them so that his grandson, once adorned with the beads, could take his revenge on the jaguar that had killed his mother, Kushiimedu. Beads are able to protect warriors and they have been used ever since, according to the guidance given by Wanasedu.

Cover of the exhibition catalog On the way to the beads - a world that is made up of beads. (2016) by Helena de Barros, Maria Lúcia BragaMuseu do Índio

Credits: Story

This virtual show was created in 2016 and published in 2017, from the exhibition SEARCH OF THE BEADS: A WORLD MADE OF BEADS, opened in 2015 at the Museu do Índio/Funai.

GOOGLE CULTURAL INSTITUTE PROJECT TEAM AT THE MUSEU DO ÍNDIO/FUNAI
Arilza de Almeida
Elena Guimarães
Ione H. P. Couto
Luiza Zelesco
Thaís Tavares

CURATION OF THE VIRTUAL SHOW
Arilza de Almeida
José Carlos Levinho

VIRTUAL SHOW EDITION
Elena Guimarães

TRANSLATION OF THE VIRTUAL SHOW
Luiza Zelesco

Credits of the exhibition SEARCH OF THE BEADS: A WORLD MADE OF BEADS set up at the Museu do Índio in 2015:

CURATION AND RESEARCH COORDINATION
Els Lagrou

RESEARCH/SETTING UP THE COLLECTION/VIDEO IMAGES
Adriana Áthila
Ana G. M. Lima
André Delpuech
André Demarchi
Antonio Guerreiro
Bruna Franchetto
Caroline Polle
Chang Whan
Charles Stépanoff
Deborah Castor
Denise Fajardo
Diego M. Dias
Fabiano B. HuniKuin
Felipe Agostini
Helder Perri
Iori L. van Velthem
Isabella Coutinho
Joana Miller
Jose Canziani
Lucas Benite Xunu
Lucia H. van Velthem
Luis D. B. Grupioni
Luisa E. Belaunde
Luiz G. L. Desana
Mara Santos
Márcio Goldman
Maria I. Cardoso
Maria J. Yawanawa
Maurício T. R. Yekuana
Naguib KanawatiNeli V.M. Marubo
Peter Beysen
Roberto Romeiro
Rosângela de Tugny
Suely Maxakali
Tainah Leite
Takumã Kuikuro
Vania Cardoso

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH AND SETTING UP THE COLLECTION
Els Lagrou
Marco A. T. Gonçalves

RESEARCH TEXTS AND IMAGES
Adriana Áthila
Caroline Polle
Joana Miller
Maria Isabel Cardoso
Nina Vincent Lannes
Peter Beysen
Vania Cardoso

MUSEUM PROJECT
Ione H. P. Couto
Maria J. N. Sardella
Lúcia S. Bastos

EXPOGRAPHY, EXHIBITION PLANNING & SET DESIGN
Simone Melo

LIGHTING PROJECT
Rogério Wiltgen

MULTIMEDIA & WINDOW DISPLAY PROJECTS
CenoLux

VISUAL IDENTITY & PRINT DESIGN
Helena de Barros

GRAFIC & SIGNAGE DESIGN
Guto Miranda

USER INTERFACE DESIGN & INFOGRAPHICS
Priscilla Moura

VIDEO POST-PRODUCTION
Monique Rodrigues

SOCIAL COMMUNICATION CONSULTANCY
Cristina Botelho
Denise Saltarelli
Rosangela Abrahão

PROJECT CONSULTANCY
Arilza de Almeida

EXHIBITOR CONSULTANCY
Raphael Madureira
Valéria Albernaz

TECHNOLOGY CONSULTANCY
Adriano Belisário
Alan Pessanha
Eliane Medeiros
Alessander C. de Lima

ACCESSIBILITY & INCLUSION CONSULTANCY
José Oado

PRODUCTION COORDINATION
José A. F. Medina

LIGHTING INSTALLATION
Maurício Cardoso
Mauro Silva

STAGING & SIGNAGE INSTALLATION
2M Deisgn
Grupo Beta3 Sign
Carlos Roberto Marcenaria
Biostec - pisos e cilindros
Rcolor - Fotosfera
Victorigor

AUDIOVISUAL COLLECTION & PRODUCTION
Michel Salibe
Roberto L. N. Aranha

GRAPHIC ANIMATION
Guillermo Planel

VIDEO EDITING
Diego Madi Dias
Joana Collier
Michel Salibe
Monique Rodrigues
Rafael Ruzene
Takumã Kuikuro

PHOTOGRAPHY
Alice Kohler
Ana Gabriela Morim
Chang Whan
Celso Maldos
Deborah Castor
Devin de Wulf
Diego M. Dias
Fernando Valdivia
George Magaraia
Gérôme Ibri
Gustaaf Verswijver
Luisa E. Belaunde
Mário Vilela
Paulo Múmia
Renato Delarole
Thiago L. C. Oliveira
Thomas Reis
Viviane Baeke

CATALOG GRAPHIC DESIGN
Helena de Barros
Maria Lucia Braga

ADMINISTRATION COORDENATION
Rosilene de Andrade Silva

SCIENTIFIC EDUCATION COORDINATION
Carlos Augusto Da Rocha Freire

CULTURAL HERITAGE COORDINATION
Ione Helena Pereira Couto

TECHNICAL-SCIENTIFIC COORDINATION
Sonia Maria Otero Coqueiro

DIRECTOR OF THE MUSEU DO ÍNDIO
José Carlos Levinho

PRESIDENT OF FUNAI
Franklimberg Ribeiro de Freitas

MINISTER OF JUSTICE
Torquato Lorena Jardim

PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL
Michel Temer

PARTNERSHIP
UNESCO | Musée du Quai Branly, Paris | PPGSA, IFCS, UFRJ

IMPLEMENTATION
SAMI | MUSEU DO ÍNDIO | FUNAI | MINISTÉRIO DA JUSTIÇA | GOVERNO FEDERAL

Indigenous Languages and Culture Documentation Programme (PROGDOC)
FUNAI/UNESCO/Museum of the Indian

PROGDOC is a project involving indigenous communities. It aims to record the knowledge, both material and immaterial, produced by the indigenous peoples of Brazil, with a view to preserving the collections safeguarded by the project and making them accessible. PROGDOC is the result of a partnership between the Museum of the Indian and the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) in association with UNESCO–Brazil and the Banco do Brasil Foundation.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps