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“In the eyes of the other”: photographic collection of Salesian Missions in Ecuador

Tuesday 20 October 2015, by SIGNIS

Brussels, Quito, October 20th, 2015 (ANS/SIGNIS) - SIGNIS has always been very sensitive about the photographic and cinematographic heritage produced by the missionaries. They contribute to the history of the people who came in contact with the missionaries and the missions. These images have been taken since the end of the 19th century and are often the first photographs of populations living in remote regions.

A collection of photographs of the Salesian Missions in the Ecuadorian Amazon has been included in the UNESCO Memory of the World programme for the preservation and promotion of documentary heritage worldwide. It is the first time in history that anything from Ecuador has been included in the programme.

This is the photographic collection En la mirada del otro (In the eyes of the other), a documentary collection of the Salesian Apostolic Vicariate in the Ecuadorian Amazon in the years 1890-1930. The collection consists of a set of seventy-six negatives in gelatine-silver bromide on glass plate and 192 original photos from the period, also in gelatine-silver bromide, relating to the Salesian Missions (1890-1930). They testify to the work done among the Shuar and Achuar-Shuar peoples of Amazonia. They were the people who most resisted colonization.

The National Institute for Cultural Heritage presented the candidacy of this collection in 2014; and last Friday the International Advisory Committee of UNESCO included entries from forty countries, including that of Ecuador in the "Memory of the World" programme. The announcement was made during a three-day meeting of the Committee in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which was attended by fourteen experts.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, explained that the Memory of the World programme is driven by the desire to preserve the memory and documentation for current and future generations.

Currently the programme catalogue includes 348 documents from all continents; and for UNESCO the En la Mirada del Otro collection is one of the few remaining documents with evidence of the religious and Salesian missions which pushed into the Ecuadorian Amazon in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
In 2009 the Government of Ecuador declared that the Photographs belong to the documentary heritage of the Ecuadorian state.

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