Didem Doğan

MUSA: Museum of the Amazones, in search of the Amazon legends

At the centre of the old town of Manaus, on the corner of the São Sebastian Square, you will see this little museum; it is the Museum of the Amazones, MUSA, a small place with exhibitions, seminars, handicraft made by the locals. When I visited the museum there was an exhibition of Feliciano Lana with his paintings telling an Amazon story ‘The Devil with no ass, the origen of Sarapó’. The indians in the Amazon region may have not left a written culture but many anthropologies coming here for research left valuable information about the myths of these people: creation, cosmos, destruction. I find a wonderful book about the Amazon myths in a bookstore and start reading about the animals: the bat living in the cave and darkness, a creature that has not terminated its evolution, the hawk- destroyer, the serpent which is closer to the creation due to its moving on the ground. Indeed the serpent and the cobra has an important place in these people’s culture. They believe the floating islands on the Amazones river are created by the serpent. I come across to the symbol of Ouroboros; the symbol that can also be found in ancient Egypt: the circular serpent that bites its own tail. It is both the creation and the destruction of the cosmos, the snake vomits itself to create and bites its own tail to destruct itself. It is an endless recreation process. In today’s Amazones one wonders to what extend these myths have presence in people’s minds. If there are still people living in the Amazones unaware of the world outside them, this is a big question mark. When you are a tourist coming for a couple of days you will witness a quite ‘postcard’ representation of the indians: a group of indian people that greet you with their dances, naked women selling souvenirs, their chief speaking portuguese, it will seem to you quite commercial. However, one also finds places like this museum and the film centre of the Amazones in the old town which try to give you a deeper understating of the history and culture of these lands.