I will offer to paint pictures, sketch, take photographs,
make videos, explain historical or economic relationships,
cook food or play music.
It is my task to shape the themes and contents I am provided
with and to try to translate them into the context of the
surroundings into which I will travel.
The following story is about translation, its sycophantic
tactics and its limitations:
According to Claude Lévi-Strauss, an ethnographic
expedition into the depths of Brazil begins on the Boulevard
Réaumur-Sébastopol. Here, Czech importers sell
goods that are apparently essential for such expeditions.
The most important of these are beads. As the preparing ethnographer
has no criteria of his own in choosing the beads, he simply
applies those that he has already observed among the natives.
He bites the beads to test their hardness, sucks at them to
see if they are thoroughly dyed.If the beads are hand-made,
the little ones are the most difficult to make. For this reason,
the smallest ones are the most popular in Brazil.
Blue and green goods are uninteresting. The tribes in innermost
Brazilians use black nutshells, milky pearl and a certain Urucu,
which is red, for their beads. It is therefore advisable to
buy black, white and a few red beads as if to imitate the familiar
colours and the relative quantities in which they are found.
This tactic will bring the ethnographer most success.