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Cover for Makuna


Portrait of an Amazonian People

Kaj Arhem, Diego Samper (Photographs by)


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Throughout their history, the Makuna have withstood the social and environmental stresses inflicted upon them by European arrival, the Amazonian rubber boom at the turn of the century, and a black-market demand for coca leaves during the 1970s and 1980s. Most recently, gold mining is threatening to destroy their hills and forests and to weaken their traditions. Countering this menacing scenario, Makuna evokes the vitality of a culture in which the natural, spiritual, and human worlds are fundamentally united.

In stunning, full-color photographs and an evocative text, Diego Samper and Kaj Århem celebrate the natural surroundings, domestic life, and vibrant rituals of a rainforest people whose cultural future is being jeopardized by outsiders' destruction of their lands.

Praise For Makuna: Portrait of an Amazonian People

“Stunning photographs, 95 color, nine b&w, of Amazonian rain forests by Diego Samper give Makuna: Portrait of an Amazonian People more depth than the typical anthropological study. Sociologist Kaj Århem, who has visited the Makuna frequently since 1972, provides a compelling narrative as well, with in-depth accounts of Makuna culture, creation myths, and the inevitable challenges of the encroaching world.”—Publishers Weekly

“Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.”—Library Journal

“Samper’s often spectacular photos of the Makuna and their environment also span nearly two decades of work.”—Journal of Anthropological Research

Smithsonian Books, 9781588340924, 192pp.

Publication Date: November 17, 2003

About the Author

Kaj Århem is a professor of social anthropology at the University of Göteborg, Sweden and the author of four other books, including Makuna Social Organization.

Diego Samper is a prominent Colombian photographer who has visited and worked with the Makuna since 1977.