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Unveiling an indomitable culture.

Inside Philadelphia's Port of History Mesuem, Manuel Raimon, a 22-year-old Mapuche Indian, recently reconstructed a ruka, the traditional wood and adobe dwelling of his ancestors.

The structure had been built by his family in Chile and then disassembled for shipment to Philadelphia. This was Manuel's first experience building a ruka - today most of the country's half-million Mapuches live in modern homes.

The thatch-topped dwelling is one of the most unsual components of an extraordinary exhibition of the history, art and culture of the Mapuche, the major ancient native Indian people of Chile. Containing museum pieces never before seen outside of Chile, Mapuche. Seeds of the Chilean Soul will be on view in the City of Brotherly Love from March 27 through June 30, 1992.

Over 200 artificial and photographs from the collections of the world-famous Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino in Santiago illuminate the story of the Mapuche, from their origins (500 AD) through their fierce struggles to maintain their independence and ethnic identity, first against the Inca and later the Spanish conquistadores, to contemporary dilemmas within today's dominant Chilean society. One of the largest surviving ethnic group in the Americas, they call themselves the "people of the land" and are renowned for their close bonds with the earth and its elements.

The exhibition includes Mapuche silverwork, some of the finest in the western Hemisphere. A breastplate with a waterfowl motif and a pair of detailed spurs are among the visually opulent items. A life-sizes representation of a eighteenth-century warrior, in full battle regalia and the show, along with Raimon's 12-by-36 foot ruka. There will also be a dramatic display of chemamules, eight-foot tall wooden sculptures used by shamans in their rituals. Weavings, ceramics, basketwork and woodcrafts dating from as early as the seventh century add to this comprehensive celebration of Mapuche culture. Carlos Aldunate del Solar, Director of the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, is the exhibition curator and author of the impressive English-language catalogue accompanying the show.

Nearly four years in the planning, the exhibition is presented through the combined efforts of the City of Philadelphia, the Republic of Chile - Embassy of Chile to the U.S., the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, the Chilean and America Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia, the Chilean Quincentenary Commission, the Delaware River Pot Authority, the Port of History Museum and the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino.

The exhibition site selected in recognition of the important trade relations between Chile and Philadelphia, the largest port for Chilean products on the East Coast of the United States. Seventy percent of Chilean fruit exports to the U.S. are handled through the ports of Philadelphia. Although the Mapuche exhibition is in part a promotion of this business partnership, more importantly, it comes on the heels of recent efforts by the Chilean government to officially recognize the rights and heritage of the Mapuche community.
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Title Annotation:Mapuche Indian exhibit
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:May 1, 1992
Words:479
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