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The Hummingbird’s Atlas

The Hummingbird’s Atlas maps the historical relationship of Guaraní peoples in the Atlantic rainforest with the emergence and expansion of capitalism, from 1500 to 1769. During this period Guaraní peoples worked on, resisted and fought for the control of numerous commodity frontiers in the region, with their actions impacting both regional and world history. These commodities included sugar and wheat cultivated on Portuguese slave plantations, alongside gold and yerba mate extracted from within the rainforest.


In Mbyá Guaraní cosmology the hummingbird is a divine messenger, bringing word to humans from Nhanderu, the creator deity. The hummingbird flits between the divine and material world, and between trees to cross-pollinate flowers. This Atlas, in turn, cross-pollinates the flowers of Guaraní studies with the flowers of other trees, such as environmental history, labour history, historical anthropology and critical cartography. The Atlas draws on primary documents from archives in South America and Europe, along with reflections on these documents from Mbyá Guaraní writers and artists such as Timoteo Verá Tupã Popygua and Werá Alexandre, as well as Nhandeva Guaraní anthropologist and curator Sandra Benites. Our discussions about these primary sources serve as the beginning of a dialogue that will be developed further in future versions of the Atlas.


Upwards of 83% of the Atlantic rainforest has now been destroyed, with Guaraní communities constituting some of the most important defenders of the remaining fragments of the biome. By visualising Guaraní history in the Atlantic rainforest, the Hummingbird’s Atlas provides a broader context for understanding the importance of contemporary Guaraní land rights campaigns.



Many thanks to those who have collaborated on and supported this project in South America, including Sandra Benites, Timóteo da Silva Verá Tupã Popygua, Gabriela Cardoza, Anita Ekman, Carla Gole, Amilcar Packer, Marcos Tupã, Anai Vera and Alexandre Werá, along with the support in Australia from Sara J. Wills, Sean Scalmer, Kat Ellinghaus and the Lizette Bentwitch Scholarship for PhD Travel and Fieldwork at the University of Melbourne.


Freg J Stokes is a writer, performer and mapmaker from Melbourne, Australia. He is a PhD candidate in History at the University of Melbourne. His doctoral thesis provides part of the research basis for the Hummingbird’s Atlas. He has also worked on applied theatre, public art and satirical performance projects in Australia, Colombia, Venezuela and Bhutan. He has written for the Postcolonial Studies Journal, Jacobin, Crikey, Overland and The Lifted Brow.


Freg J Stokes, Ubatuba, Brazil

Photo by Anita Ekman

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