Wet collodion plate, 10x15 cm. 2013

The Delta of Amacuro, located in eastern Venezuela, is considered one of the most inhospitable places in the world. For the past 8,500 years, the Warao Indians have made their home in its 20,000 square kilometers of water canals and swamps. Despite the significant acculturation they have endured due to colonialism, the Warao people have successfully preserved their culture and way of life, deeply intertwined with this environment. 

Before the late 20th century, the term 'berdache' was commonly used by anthropologists as a general term to describe 'two-spirit' or transgender individuals. In Native American societies, berdaches held vital roles, both in religious and economic aspects. They were assigned specific duties within their religion and were not expected to provide for their families in the same way as males. Instead, they undertook some of the women's work and adopted the behaviors and attire of women.

Inkjet print on hahnemühle cotton paper, Variable Size. 2013

Early Spanish and French explorers and colonizers in North America used these terms as a way to understand the relationships, anatomical sex, sexual behavior, and social gender roles of individuals they encountered who did not fit within their own cultural frameworks. 

Historically, two-spirit people have often been seamlessly integrated into the fabric of their tribes, holding esteemed and respected positions within their communities. Native cultures have typically been cautious about sharing their two-spirit traditions with outsiders, fearing potential misunderstandings or appropriation of these traditions for external agendas

10 wet collodion plates.
Wood and black velvet conservation box.
Installation views. Fucares Gallery, 2013

 The Warao, like other ethnic groups, recognize the existence of individuals who do not fit the traditional categories of man or woman. These individuals are known as Tida Wena, and their inclusion in Warao society traces back to pre-Columbian traditions mentioned earlier. Many of these beliefs were prevalent just half a century ago, but they are now on the brink of extinction due to increasing acculturation. 

The presence of transgender individuals within Warao society may represent the last vestiges of these ancient pre-Columbian traditions, which have never been documented photographically before.

Wonderland. Video, photography and soundlandscape. 2013


alvaro laiz, photography, documentary, alvarolaiz, spanish photography, photographer, Alvaro Laiz, visual artist,
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