Colombia’s Museo Nacional explores the hidden mysteries of Chiribiquete


The Chiribiquete is a towering rock massif that rises from a dense jungle canopy and acts as a natural border between the Andes and Eastern plains. Covering an expanse of territory through which some of Colombia’s most majestic rivers flow, Chiribiquete is also part of the Jaguar Corridor that extends from the Darien Gap into the Brazilian Amazon, and a lifeline for the survival of this endangered species.

Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2018, the National Park Chiribiquete remains closed to all visitors given its 42,000 square kilometers dimension – roughly the size of Switzerland – and natural habitats that have yet to be documented in scientific expeditions. From abundant plant and animal biodiversity, to steep rock faces painted with pictograms – which anthropologists claim could date back to 11,000 B.C. or older – Chiribiquete is a territory steeped in legend and mystery.

As one of Colombia’s great natural wonders, the National Museum teamed up with the Ministry of Culture and Institute of Anthropology and Natural History (ICANH) to present their latest temporary exhibition, The Jaguar and The Butterfly: Chiribiquete natural and cultural heritage of humanity. The exhibition opens on Friday, July 17, at 5:00 pm via Facebook Live @museonacionaldecolombia.

Given the coronavirus health emergency in the country, the National Museum is utilizing its central exhibition room to virtually guide visitors through an ethnographic landscape that encompasses the departments of Guaviare and Caquetá, and “get to know Chiribiquete without going,” states the Museum’s director Daniel Castro.

The exhibition also includes works by contemporary artists Miguel Ángel Rojas, Oscar Leone, Edwin Monsalve and María Teresa Negreiros, offering a multidisciplinary and critical reflection on the effects – and threats – that humans have caused on the natural and cultural heritage of Chiribiquete.

The title The Jaguar and The Butterfly references the fragility of the Amazon, where during dry season, two weather patterns – the northeast trade winds sweeping across the Orinoquia and southeast winds coming down from the Andes – are announced by butterflies. According to researchers, butterflies respond quickly to climatic and anthropic changes, and their chemical composition, richness and diversity are indicators of the conservation status of an ecosystem. The butterflies also show the biological richness and amazing state of conservation inside Chiribiquete. By contrast, the jaguar is the region’s most revered predator and symbol of power in Amerindian cosmologies.

Chiribiquete National Park is the largest natural reserve in Colombia, home to plant and animal life that has survived in these remote rock formations belonging to the larger Guiana Shield. For biologists, Chiribiquete also preserves botanicals that could provide cures for disease, and at a moment when Colombia remains confined due to the coronavirus outbreak, The Jaguar and The Butterfly sheds hope that this majestic biosphere is nature’s way of defending the preservation of all species.



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