Didem Doğan

Portraits of people from the Gold Museum: Shaman, a bird men, the meditating man, the chieftain

The Shaman, an important figure in pre-Columbian cultures. The power of the shaman comes from his ability to transform into other beings such as birds, jaguars, and to possess their qualities: ability to fly, sharp eye view, power, courage. Of course they would not be acting exactly like these animals, they would be entering in a state of trance and passing into an other dimension. One of these animals was the bat. When we see these pieces, the accessories they used to put on their faces and bodies we see that they tried to look like bats. If we come across the figure of the bird so often then it should have a meaning: eagles, parrots, many others. They were identifying themselves with the birds. During their hallucinatory experiences where they used to ‘go’, to ‘travel’ to a supernatural place, their souls separated from their bodies and they started to fly. According to accounts, a Muisca priest told once to Spanish that once he traveled to north till Santa Marta.Thinking man/meditating man: In these figures we see two types of sitting, in one of them a man is sitting on a ‘bench’, the other one is like a ‘basket position’, he sits with his knees around his arms. They represent the man who meditates, the man who thinks. The Chieftains: These pre-Columbian people are communities with a certain social hierarchy, but with no State. The Chieftain is the figure of the leader. They are seen as noble men who descend from the sun, or powerful beings such as the jaguar. In certain societies it was even forbidden to look them in the face, their feet shouldn’t land on the ground and thus they should always be carried above. It was normal that they had many wives and servants. They used to carry jewels made of gold and other metals. When they died their bodies were mummified and put into big tombs.