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Manhattan SUNY FIT Modern Languages and Culture Department Lab Mural

Updated: Apr 4

Manuel Araneda Castex has been invited to design a mural for the Department of Modern Languages & Cultures. The mural is a collage with photographs taken by Araneda-Castex in the territory of Selk Nam and Yagan, in the extreme south of Chile.

Madeline Millan

FIT Professor

State University of New York



Every person is an island, an individual, sometimes running behind the clock.

And we live submerged in language, in that sea that unites us.

Language is the living possibility of cultures, there is no culture without language, no people, or community. Communication and dialogue build our ties and those ties build culture.

It occurs in a space that is defined as its own, as the origin to which everyone will one day want to return.


The territory as its origin is our belonging, our identity.

The Selknam and Yagan ethnic groups that lived at the end of the world, a land where there is no more South, did not survive the encounter with civilization, their nakedness and innocence, their ignorance of property, over objects and animals was paid with their lives.

They were exhibited and subjected to slavery and humiliation. It is likely that from the observation of these peoples, from their naked harmony with nature, Darwin, who describes them in a derogatory way, began to think about the theory of evolution. From that description to the present extinction there was only one step, and today, of the two ethnic groups there is only one person, Cristina Calderón, the last living yagan of pure blood, who speaks the language.

What we know of their body paintings and their culture we owe especially to the investigations of Martín Gusinde. They named him “The Shadowhunter”.

Now there is only the silence and the invisible presence of their spirits.


I have tried to rescue their territory in these photographs.

These photographs are part of my research trips for the design and construction of the Martin Gusinde Anthropologist Museum, in Puerto Williams in the Yagan Territory and for the project of the Tierra del Fuego Museum in Porvenir in Selknam territory, ten years later.

There is an attempt to rescue the color, the textures, the lights of the territory now solitary and silent.


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