Weest Geen Knecht der Menschen

(Old Dutch for ‘Be Not a Servant of Men’) deals with the conflict between the Mennonites, a religious movement with Frisian roots and the Ayoreo, an indigenous tribe in Paraguay. The Mennonites arrived in Paraguay at the beginning of the 20th century and inhabited large parts of the Gran Chaco. Today the Chaco has the highest rate of deforestation in the world, due to the Mennonites large-scale commercialized agriculture, which rapidly destroys the remaining flora and fauna. The project examines this transformation and looks closely at the conflict between the Mennonites and the Ayoreo community.

The project was launched with a temporary intervention in Kleefeld, a small village in the north-west of Paraguay, as part of the larger project ‘be not a servant of men’ exhibited in its entirety at the Frisian Museum in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. The patchwork cloth was made of 50 different Ayoreo textiles, bought in neighboring Ayoreo villages and from local tourist shops. The cloth was used to cover up a Mennonite watchtower, which was constructed as part of a defense strategy in order to protect the Mennonites community from attacks from the Ayoreo. The watchtower was used in the 1960s and commemorates the first conflicts between the Mennonites and the Ayoreo.