Maria Jussara Gomes Gruber
Fellow Since 1996
MAGUTA - Centro de Documentação e Pesquisa do Alto Solimões
This profile was prepared when Maria Jussara Gomes Gruber was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Jussara Gruber believes that an ethnographic museum organized and structured by the direct descendants of those who created the artifacts can help rescue social and cultural values threatened by mainstream society, and build tribal identity and individual self-respect. By enabling an indigenous group to display its culture and history and to reveal its essential cultural values and politico-economic concerns, such a museum serves as an important instrument of the indigenous society, supporting the tribe and its traditions as a contemporary, living culture and refuting claims that indigenous peoples have no future. Embodying this concept, Jussara's Museum enables the Ticuna indigenous people to display objects that have the greatest cultural and sentimental value for them and to present them in ways that make sense to them. Located in the town of Benjamin Constant, in Amazonas, the Museum is unique in Brazil–the first to be located near an indigenous area and the first to be organized and managed with the participation of the indigenous people themselves. Under Jussara's tutelage, the museum enables the Ticuna to escape from the discriminatory ideas of mainstream society. It also combats widely held prejudices by introducing the Ticuna to society at large through their beautiful artistic productions.Jussara's idea turns the traditional practices of ethnographic museums on their head. Most museum exhibits are organized according to the curator's or collector's preconceptions. In marked contrast, Jussara's Museum is organized according to the criteria and interests of the originators of its artifacts, and is thus more revealing of the culture itself.