The Ese’Eja People of the Amazon: Connected by a Thread

As Amazonia loses many of its indigenous cultures, their deep knowledge and wisdom of the interconnectedness of nature is also disappearing. The Ese’Eja, one of the few extant foraging societies of Peru, have been stewards of the lands in the Amazon basin for many generations. This exhibition tells their story in the hope of influencing public policy and empowering the Ese’Eja in determining their future. The Ese'Eja offer us a unique perspective on the complex political, environmental, and social issues at play in contemporary Peru, and indeed, throughout the world. 


The Ese'Eja People of the Amazon: Connect by a Thread

Coming to the Field Museum in Chicago

The Ese’Eja People of the Amazon: Connected by a Threadincludes photographs and daguerreotypes made by Andrew Bale and Jon Cox, as well as artifacts curated by Dr. Monica Dominguez Torres, Dr. Vicki Cassman that are part of the community’s daily life. This exhibit illustrates not only a worldview, a way of life, and a heritage, but also the contemporary challenges facing these resilient people. All proceeds from the exhibit, sales of a companion book, and donations will go into a Community Development Fund managed by the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research Foundation (ACEER.org) in support of Ese’Eja and other indigenous development projects, and conservation education in the Peruvian Amazon.  

Platinum-Palladium Prints by Andrew Bale and Jon Cox
Since 2014, Jon Cox and Andrew Bale have collaborated with Ese’Eja leaders in documenting their traditions, lands, and contemporary challenges. These photographs have been created using a Platinum-Palladium printing process on Japanese Kozo paper, a support chosen to reflect the outside influences on the Ese’Eja community. After Japanese refugees settled within the Ese’Eja ancestral lands along the shores of Lake Valencia following World War II, the Ese’Eja learned to farm rice from them; even today they continue to grow rice in their gardens. Ensuing conflicts between the two groups however forced the Ese’Eja to abandon their settlements in that area.

Mercury-Developed, Gold-Gilded Daguerreotypes by Andrew Bale and Jon Cox
Like many other indigenous peoples in the Amazon, the Ese’Eja are affected by mercury that is being dumped into their environment as a byproduct of illegal gold mining. These mercury-developed, gold-gilded images of Ese’Eja community members are created to draw attention to the mercury pollution being cast upon one of the world’s last remaining Amazonian cultures and the unique environment where they live.

Developed in 1839, daguerreotypes are the earliest photographic images, and have long been described as mirrors with a memory. When viewing each daguerreotype, you first see yourself reflected on the silver surface; and as you look deeper the portrait of an Ese’Eja becomes visible.

Artifacts from the daily life of the Ese'Eja. 

Exhibition Video

Installation Photos

Exhibition Tour Dates

Field Museum, Chicago, IL (02/2020 - 01/2021)

Delaware College of Art and Design, Wilmington, DE (07/2019)

Boise State University, Boise, ID (10/16/2018 - 2019)

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA (September 2018)

West Chester University, West Chester, PA (3/05/2018)

Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI (1/12/2018)

Smithsonian National Museum American Indian, Washington D.C. (7/27/2017)

Peruvian Embassy, Washington D.C. (7/13/2017)

Sonnenschein and Albright Galleries, Lake Forest College, IL. (1/24/2017)

Dickinson College, Goodyear Gallery, Carlisle, PA (9/06/2016)

University of Delaware, West Gallery of Old College, Newark, DE (9/01/2016)

Host The Ese'Eja Exhibition

Thank you for your interest in hosting the exhibition “The Ese’Eja People of the Amazon: Connected by a Thread.”  The rental fee associated with the exhibition is $5,000 for up to 8 weeks and can be adjusted for longer time periods based on your needs. The fee goes into an Ese'Eja community fund managed by the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER.org). The Ese’Eja community may access the funds for health care, education, scholarships, water purification, indigenous rights lawyer fees or anything else they as a culture need. Shipping within the United States is included in the cost of the rental fee. With the rental fee you will also receive two platinum/palladium prints for your institutions permanent collection.