Jon Cox, assistant professor of art
who was the University of Delaware project manager for a
multidisciplinary team that focused on documenting the culture of the
indigenous Ese’Eja people of Peru, has been named a “National Geographic
The designation recognizes the contributions of a wide-ranging group
of researchers and others who have made their marks in exploration and
discovery. The list of National Geographic Explorers encompasses such
specialists as ocean explorers, geneticists, elephant researchers,
conservation biologists, archaeologists, filmmakers and linguists.
The Ese’Eja project included a three-week expedition to the Amazon
rain forest in spring 2014, in which UD students, faculty and other team
members performed “cultural mapping” to explore the hunting, gathering
and fishing community.
The Ese’Eja’s numbers have plummeted in recent years, and their
traditional culture is threatened by development, industry and
restricted access to ancestral lands.
Team members documented aspects of the community through photographs
(Cox is a photographer) and video, oral histories about the daily lives
of the Ese’Eja and maps created from GPS coordinates.
To read more about the project, and the other UD faculty and students who participated, see the feature article in the most recent issue of the "UD Research" magazine.
One result of the project has been a video titled “The Ese’Eja: From a
Cotton Thread in the Sky to Protectors of the Amazon.” The title refers
to the traditional belief that the Ese’Eja people traveled down to
Earth on a cotton thread. The video, hosted on the National Geographic
website, can be viewed via a link on the overall project website, “The
Ancestral Lands of the Ese’Eja—The True People,” at www.eseeja.org.
The cultural mapping team also returned to UD with about 70 objects
the community provided, including bark cloth, carved wooden bows, a
necklace of wild-pig teeth and drawings by Ese’Eja elders illustrating
their traditional creation story. The artifacts have been documented by
UD’s Department of Art Conservation and will become part of an
exhibition planned for fall 2016.
Cox, who previously contributed photographs for a book about another
endangered group, the Hadzabe people of Tanzania in East Africa, is
profiled on the National Geographic Explorers website, where an interview with him is available.