CELEBRATION: Photographs of the Guna Chicha, by J. Howe (2016)

Celebration Photographs of the Guna ChichaCelebration: Photographs of the Guna Chicha
Celebración: Fotografías de la Chicha Guna

By James Howe

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute & Congreso General de la Cultura Guna, 2016

The Guna of Panama, famous for their visual and verbal art, celebrate the coming of age of their daughters in dramatic village-wide festivities, some of them lasting as long as three days, with dancing, singing, drinking, and performance of epic sacred chants. These peak events, similar to Amazonian and Andean drinking parties except in their greater scale and elaboration, were first witnessed by an English pirate in the 17th century.  They are presented in Celebration: Photographs of the Guna Chicha in a remarkable bilingual photo-ethnography, with more than eighty striking and beautifully printed images covering the whole range of celebration, from the brewing of sugar cane chicha, to formal drinking and toasting, to exuberant mass dancing.

This bilingual volume, based on many years of participant observation and on an unusual depth of trust between photographer and subjects, has been co-published by the highest Guna cultural authority, the Onmagged Dummad Namaggaled, together with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute of Panama.

Reviews can be found in the Visual Anthropology Review 33(2), the Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 23(2), and in an extended appreciation by a Guna intellectual Arysteides Turpana in Tareas (Panama), no. 157: 129-138.

The book is available from the author (jhowe@mit.edu) for $15, at a fraction of the per-volume production costs.

About the Author

Professor James Howe is MIT Anthropology Faculty. He received an A.B. degree from Harvard College (1966), an M.A. from Oxford University (Social Anthropology, 1967) and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (Anthropology, 1974). He carries out research in political and historical anthropology, indigenous-state relations, and missionization; his publications include The Kuna Gathering: Contemporary Village Politics in Panama (1986), and A People Who Would Not Kneel: Panama, the United States, and the San Blas Kuna (1998).

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