The Selk’nam Sacred Clowns.Tierra del Fuego

by | Nov 18, 2015 | Sacred Clown

Could this man really represent yet another tradition of sacred clown. I’m always on the lookout for references, especially since my experience with the Hoxua at the Anjos Do Picadeiro festival in 2006. I have certainly posted plenty on the topic, and I wrote a bit about the Hoxua and how the Zen master considered sacred to mean Just Human!

This summer, I came across an article about Les Rencontres d’Arles, the big French photography summit. The article in Le Monde highlighted a dozen of the exhibitions at this 46th encounter.

It was from Martin Gusinde’s exhibit: L’esprit des hommes de la Terre de Feu (The spirit of the men from the Tierra del Fuego-the Southern tip of South America.) The date is 1923.

“Son rôle est d’amuser les spectateurs du Hain. Cérémonie du Hain, rite Sel’knam, 1923.” (which translates to ‘His role is to amuse the spectators of the Ceremony of the Hain.)

Great Ohhms to  internet research, as it leads me effortlessly to another article , this one on “High Five Magazine”which is ironically all in French yet if one scrolls down, lots of photos of the Hains. (Perhaps the expression High-Five now transcends (North) American culture?)

Either way, high fives to this post. It’s a descriptive in depth look at the exhibit, and at the explorer Gusinde. Turns out he was also a priest and a photographer who lived with the Selk’man peoples for quite a time. It turns out that the Hain is an initiation ceremony of Selk’man,  where one incarnates a specific Selk’man spirit, and that the ceremony could last for weeks. Gusinde himself, having gained the trust of the Selk’man, was initiated.

What piqued my interest in the first place is that they are describing the naked man as a clown— His role is to bring humor into the ceremony! He’s taking on the role of Sacred Clown! Amazing to me to read about yet another indigenous nation where humor plays a vital role in sacred ceremony.

The search also brought me to a video about the discovery of Gusinde’s images that led to the exposition.

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