Presença Karajá: The Ritxoko dolls of the Iny Karajá

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© Markus Garscha
Ritxoko in exhibition at the 63rd SBPC's Meeting, Campus Samambaia UFG, Goiânia, Goiás, Brazil, 2011

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The SES has been working with the international project “Presença Karajá: cultura material, tramas e trânsitos coloniais“ since 2018. The project documents the cultural heritage of the Iny-Karajá in Brazil, specifically Ritxoko (dolls made of clay and wax), which illustrate the traditions of clothing, jewelry, and tattoos of the Iny-Karajá over generations.


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As children play with the dolls, they become socialized into the Iny-Karajá community and cosmology. Ritxoko have also been sold to tourists and museums since the nineteenth century, providing a source of income for many of the Ceramistas (ceramists) in the Iny-Karaja villages along the Araguaia River.


,,In den Wildnissen Brasiliens: Bericht und Ergebnisse der Leipziger Araguaya-Expedition, 1908" by Fritz Krause, published in Leipzig in 1911.

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The project will create a digital repository with the databank Tainacan where Ritxoko from 77 museums worldwide can be presented online, as well as on social media such as Facebook and Instagram.

The SES collections contain over 80 Ritxoko. Researchers in Brazil, Belgium, and members of the Iny-Karajá can do provenance research together using online conferencing tools and digitalized photos and inventory cards. They also analyze maps where the Ritxoko were collected and review the ways in which historic Ritxoko where made and designed. A primary source for this research is the archival material from Fritz Krause (1881-1963), a Leipzig based collector and later, the director GRASSI Museum for Völkerkunde zu Leipzig. He traveled in South America and collected Iny-Karaja material culture for the GRASSI Museum in 1908.

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The Presença Karajá considers the project part of “digital restitution” because it creates the opportunity for contemporary Ceramistas to incorporate historic methods and designs from the 1900s. The Tainacan databank will publish the information to the Ritxoko in Portugese, creating wider accessibility to the Iny-Karajá members to their own material culture. The information will also be published in the SES online collection in German.

Digitales Provenienzforschungstreffen. Von Links nach Rechts: Luciana de Castro, Miriam Hamburger, Andréa Vial, Labé Iny, Melanie Meier, Renata Dias, Markus Garscha, and Manuelina Duarte.

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The artists plan to use certain historic dolls in museums around the world as models for modern Ritxoko, and then send these new pieces in a traveling exhibition through participating museums.

The corresponding partners for this project are Dr. Manuelina Maria Duarte Cândido, Dr. Andréa Dias Vial, PhD. Nei Clara de Lima, Dr. Luciana Conrado Martins, and Markus Garscha.

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Iny Karajá – „Presença Karajá“
Iny Karajá – „Presença Karajá“
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