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Jungle mystery: Local photographer follows in footsteps of famed lost explorer

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Kieron Nelson

Special to The Journal

The year is 1925. The location, the Upper-Xingu of the Amazonian Basin.

Legendary explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett, his son and a close friend are seeking a lost city rumoured to be hidden in the unexplored jungle, which is inhabited by cannibals.

Together, they take stock at Dead Horse Camp. Ahead lies the unknown, danger, and perhaps a Lost Civilization.

One day the trio head off into the jungle. They are never seen or heard from again.

In 2011, I ventured into the Xingu Region of Amazonia to photograph the Wauja people during their Pequi Festival. It is the last event in the seasonal calendar of rituals and held to honour the fruit trees and humming-bird spirit.

The colourful dances and games bring some cheer to the hardest time of the year. For tribes of the Amazon Basin, the rainy season is a continuous one lasting half the year. For the communities of the Xingu, the rivers and lagoons are the lifeblood of their culture.

Four years later, in August of 2015, I was invited to attend the ‘Quarup’ or ‘Kuarup,’ the principal funeral ritual of the people of the Xingu, when all neighbouring tribes gather to celebrate life, death, and rebirth.

The Amazon has a nearly mythical status. The river is awesome and the trees tower. One enters, in a real sense, the very life spring of the planet, the source of much of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the weather we rely on.

Editor’s Note:

On Tuesday, May 3, Sarnia photographer Kieron Nelson will follow in the footsteps of Percy Fawcett during a multi-media presentation of the Sarnia Photographic Club.

The 7 p.m. show is at the Sarnia Library Auditorium, 124 Christina St. S. Admission is free.

The program contains mature content, so viewer discretion is advised.

Nelson’s interest in vanishing cultures has taken him from the jungles of New Guinea to the tribal regions of Pakistan. His works have been published in leading magazines, including National Geographic, and exhibited at The Museum Of Archaeology And Ethnology in Brazil, the Royal Geographical Society in London, England, and the National Geographic Charitable Awards Show in California.

For more, visit www.vanishingculturesphotography.com

Wrestling matches are brief and end when an opponents is thrown to the ground. The champion who emerges at day's end earns great and lasting acclaim. Kieron Nelson
Wrestling matches are brief and end when an opponents is thrown to the ground. The champion who emerges at day’s end earns great and lasting acclaim.
Kieron Nelson
The men are continually involved in conduct that is more or less deliberately on display in central village areas for the benefit of the rest of the tribe. The colour red represents blood, and therefore life. Kieron Nelson
The men are continually involved in conduct that is more or less deliberately on display in central village areas for the benefit of the rest of the tribe. The colour red represents blood, and therefore life.
Kieron Nelson
A Kalapalo wears a necklace made from the claws of the Jaguar. Kieron Nelson
A Kalapalo wears a necklace made from the claws of the Jaguar.
Kieron Nelson
The Waura tribe wear characteristic headdresses often made from the feathers of parrots, macaws and other colourful birds. Kieron Nelson
The Waura tribe wear characteristic headdresses often made from the feathers of parrots, macaws and other colourful birds.
Kieron Nelson
The act of painting oneself is a first contact with the spirits that will appear during ritual ceremonies. Kieron Nelson
The act of painting oneself is a first contact with the spirits that will appear during ritual ceremonies.
Kieron Nelson
A pubescent girl removes tight cotton wrappings from her knees and ankles, which make her calves bulge enormously, a sign of beauty in a Xinguano girl. Kieron Nelson
A pubescent girl removes tight cotton wrappings from her knees and ankles, which make her calves bulge enormously, a sign of beauty in a Xinguano girl.
Kieron Nelson
Urucum seeds are boiled into a paste and rolled in a ball to be used as body paint and hair colouring. Red dye is associated with rituals and festivals. Kieron Nelson
Urucum seeds are boiled into a paste and rolled in a ball to be used as body paint and hair colouring. Red dye is associated with rituals and festivals.
Kieron Nelson

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