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Reconnecting art and science for sustainability: learning from indigenous knowledge through participatory action-research in the Amazon

Simone Athayde, Tropical Conservation and Development Program, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida
Jose Silva-Lugo, Academic Technology, University of Florida
Marianne Schmink, Center for Latin American Studies, University of Florida
Aturi Kaiabi, Associação Indígena Tapawia, Brazil
Michael Heckenberger, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida


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Sustainability science focuses on generating and applying knowledge to environmentally sound human development around the world. It requires working toward greater integration of different types of knowledge, ways of knowing, and between academy and society. We contribute to the development of approaches for learning from indigenous knowledge, through enhanced understanding of the system of values, meanings, and relationships afforded by indigenous arts. We focus on a long-term, participatory action research project developed for the revitalization of weaving knowledge among three Kawaiwete (also known as Kaiabi) indigenous groups in the Amazon. The problem was originally defined by indigenous communities, concerned with the erosion of weaving knowledge of basketry and textiles among men and women. Methods for coproduction of knowledge included dialogical methods and tools, indigenous-led strategies, and quantitative and qualitative approaches across biophysical and social sciences. Longitudinal and cross-sectional studies considered multiple dimensions, scales, and networks of knowledge creation, distribution, and transmission. Innovation and articulation with western systems, along with shamanism, gender, and leadership, were key factors enhancing artistic knowledge resilience. We reflect on lessons learned and implications of this initiative for broadening the understanding of art and science intersections toward a sustainable future.

Key words

indigenous art; Brazilian Amazon; epistemology; inter - and transdisciplinarity; Kaiabi; Kawaiwete; participatory action research; social-ecological resilience; sustainability; weaving knowledge

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087