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Amazonian peoples, an introduction

Amazon, Para, Brazil (photo: Leonardo F. Freitas, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Amazon, Para, Brazil (photo: Leonardo F. Freitas, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Amazonia is a land of many rivers which eventually join to form the mainstream Amazon, carrying to the sea the rains and silt which feed the greatest forest in the world. Most of Amazonia is in Brazil, but an extensive network of tributaries flow into it from the neighbouring countries of Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, all of which share the environment and culture of the South American tropical lowlands.
The vast reaches of the Amazonian rainforest have been lived in and shaped by human hands for thousands of years. Long before Europeans arrived in the Americas this deep history of human interaction with river and forest gave rise to enduring cultural traditions and sophisticated art styles. Today people's lives are closely intertwined with the plants and animals of the forest for their practical value as well as their symbolic significance.
Native Amazonians, or Amerindians, belong to a multitude of different ethnic groups with their own languages and cultures, but also sharing a common cultural tradition. Their story can be told in many ways through oral and written histories, objects and images. They often speak of the Amazon as a serpent, and the plan of the exhibition is based on this idea of a serpentine river which winds its way through the Amazonian past and present.
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