Martin Gusinde recorded the cultures of the indigenous people living on the archipelago of Tierra Del Fuego betwen 1919 and 1924: the Selk’nam, Yamana and Kawesqar peoples. He made four trips to Tierra Del Fuego, each time becoming more embedded in their way of life, learning to speak and write their languages and being initiated into their sacred rites. While he was living among the people of these islands, he took over 1000 photos, which have now been compiled along with his notes into the book, The Lost Tribes of Tierra Del Fuego. The images are extraordinary, they belie a rawness and naivety that allows to witness a people without the obvious stereotyping given to ethnicity of other vanishing peoples today. They also depict a culture and way of life utterly destroyed by the European invasion of their lands.
The peoples of Tierra Del Fuego disappeared at an alarming rate, with their population going from 3,000 in the late 1800s to 100 at the time that Gusinde was documenting their culture. "What always strikes me about images of pre-colonial societies is how deeply art was a part of their cultures, something that everyone participated in and that was ingrained into each community member from birth. What you see below shows the influence of disappeared and destroyed cultures on what we think of as contemporary art today."
Martin Gusinde, Tierra Del Fuego 1919-24, The Spirit Yinchihaua, from the Kawesqar tribe
Martin Gusinde, 1919-24, Tierra Del Fuego, The Spirit Halahaches is a horned and clownlike figure. He visits the camp everyday during Hain, the Selk'nam initiation rite, and tries to scare the women
Martin Gusinde, Tierra Del Fuego 1919-24, The Shoort Spirits. Télil, representing the Sky of rain [northern sky]. And Shénu, representing the Sky of Wind [western sky].
Martin Gusinde, Tierra Del Fuego 1919-24, Ulen is a clownlike male spirit whose role is to entertain the audience of the Selk'nam Hain ceremony.
Martin Gusinde, Tierra Del Fuego 1919-24, Elek, Angela Loij and Imshuta prepare for the Kewanix dances in honour of the Tanu.
Martin Gisinde, Tierra Del Fuego 1919-24, a boy is adorned so as to scare the women.