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Keeping my country's burned past alive

Aparecida Vilaça spent years recording stories and legends in the Amazon. She was adopted by a Wari' family but saw her work burn when Brazil's National Museum caught fire

It’s been a year since Brazil’s National Museum was devastated in a huge fire. The Museum’s collection was extraordinary – it had 20 million objects – including dinosaurs, Egyptian mummies, frescos of sea dragons, Inca weaponry. But the Museum wasn’t just a storeroom of ancient objects, the building had deep personal significance for many people across Brazil.

Aparecida Vilaça is an anthropologist who’s spent years in the Amazon recording the legends, songs and stories of Brazil’s Indigenous Wari’ people. Many of them were told by the storyteller, Paleto. He ended up becoming Aparecida’s Wari’ ‘father’ and his stories were a unique catalogue of Wari’ life – all his original recordings were kept in the Museum.

Beatriz Hörmanseder is a paleontologist in Brazil’s National Museum. She lost all her work in the fire that tore through the building. She was devastated afterwards, but came up with a unique way to cope with the trauma of its loss. She got a tattoo of the building's facade and set up a project where other recovering students and staff could do the same.

Producer: Maryam Maruf

Image: Aparecida Vilaça and Paleto
Credit: Carlos Fausto

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22 minutes