Accepted paper:

The river echoes with laughter: exploring Matses children's aesthetic experiences in Peruvian Amazonia


Camilla Morelli (University of Bristol)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores Matses children’s multi-sensorial, emotional and affective engagements with the river environment in Amazonia. By looking at their daily encounters with the river, it emphasises the aesthetics of children’s experiences and how these are enhanced through shared activities of play.

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers Matses children of Peruvian Amazonia and their ways of engaging with the river environment. It explores how children directly experience the water through daily practices and in so doing develop a sense of themselves and the world. Experience, coming from ex- (out of) and perior (to test, to attempt), is here emphasised as a process of trying out the possibilities of acting, interacting and being in the world with others. Accordingly, I address the aesthetics of experience in relation to the dynamic process of testing out themselves and the environment through which children establish how their daily encounters with the world can and should be. I specifically consider children's playing—racing canoes, diving, swimming, paddling, and so forth— as a multi-sensorial, highly emotional way of developing affective relationships with each other and the river. Here aesthetic experiences are emphasised in relation to sensuous perception, bodily engagement and affective involvement, and thereby reach into realms of feeling and perceiving that cannot be easily put into words. Therefore, I use short films and photographs taken by the children so as to better explore how young Matses engage affectively with the river and select this as a favourite space of interaction. By evoking children's laughing, shouting, joking and bantering, which echo at a distance when they act in the river, I suggest how playing enhances an aesthetic engagement with water through which children make sense of their encounters and possibilities in the world.

panel P03
Exploring aesthetic experiences and practices