An ethnographic exhibition in Second Life

Ethnographic Exhibits of Two Cultures from the Republic of Panama

Available now at the Community Virtual Library, and with its official opening towards the end of July 2020, is Ethnographic Exhibits of Two Cultures from the Republic of Panama.

A collaboration between Nexus Dot, a  cultural anthropologist, and co-curator and media specialist Shiloh Emmons, the exhibit represents two decades of ethnographic research Nexus has made studying two groups indigenous to the lowland tropical rain forests of Panama, the Guna and the Emberá, examining their life styles, culture, art and religion.,

Located on a sky platform, the exhibition comprises six main components that examine both the Guna and the Emberá from several perspectives, including their cultures, the Mola art of the Guna, Emberá cosmology, ecology, and shamanism, and more. In addition, the exhibition presents photos of the Emberá Drua heritage ecotourism project, and offers an ethnobotany examination of how these lowland cultures of Panama make use of plants.

Ethnographic Exhibits of Two Cultures from the Republic of Panama

The aim of the exhibition is two-fold:

  • To communicate Nexus’ work in studying these two groups of people over a span of two decades, and the place and role of such cultures in the world today.
  • To provide the non-profit community and education system with a template of how scientific research can be transformed into an engaging, multimedia 3D virtual experience that resonates with scientists, educators, and interested Second Life residents.

The video below serves as a general introduction to the exhibit.

Based in both Panama and Idaho, USA, Nexus earned his MA in anthropology at the University of Oregon, where he specialised in the ecology and cosmology of tropical indigenous cultures, and where he also spent time as a graduate teaching fellow. Whilst he does hold that MA in anthropology, his work in studying the Guna and Emberá is very much born of personal passion, rather than being funded directly as a part of a set academic study.

Most of my research is self-funded, although I have executed a number of projects for agencies and institutions as a consultant. Often these projects were involved with ecological l or socio-economic components, so there is a link there. I’m also a geospatial analyst, and have been involved in computer mapping and handling data like the COVID map system; I’m actually at my farm in the countryside of Panama at the moment due to the general quarantine.

– Nexus Dot discussing his work

As a long-time user of Second Life who had been largely absent the platform several years, it was the current SARS-CoV-2 situation that encouraged Nexus back, with the idea of experimenting with the platform to see how well complex material like a professional anthropological paper might be translated into an engaging, multi-media learning tool, and a meeting with Shiloh started the ball rolling with the exhibit.

Ethnographic Exhibits of Two Cultures from the Republic of Panama

The exhibition is open now informally to visitors, with the formal opening taking place on Sunday, July 26th – of which more below.

Ahead of that, however, on Sunday, July 19th, Nexus will gives a short presentation about his work, and discuss the value of the anthropological perspective. The specifics of this event are:

The formal opening on July 26th will be split between the exhibition space and the CVL meeting place, and comprise the following schedule and activities:

  • 11:20am: the exhibition will be available for those wishing to visit it ahead of the opening activities.
  • 11:50am: Beragon Betts will introduce Nexus Dot at the CVL meeting place.
  • 12:00 noon: Nexus will present  Mola art and aesthetics among the Guna people.

Arisia Vita will will provide music ahead of the presentation, and people will again be able to visit the exhibition following the presentation, with both Nexus and Shiloh on hand. Those attending this event are asked to take their seats in the CVL meeting place no later than 5 minutes prior to the presentation commencing.

For me, the talks are the meat, the exhibit well it is the teaser so to speak; although the exhibit has taken on something of a life of its own! We’ve tried to ensure people can still appreciate the exhibition should they be unable to attend the presentations.

– Nexus Dot discussing his work

Ethnographic Exhibits of Two Cultures is an engaging exhibition, rich an detail and information, and an absolutely must see for anyone with an interest in anthropology, ethnography or culture.

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