Immersive installation brings never-before-seen Brazilian landscape to life

Categories: Research, School of Arts, Media and Creative Technology

A new immersive installation at the University of Salford will allow members of the public to interact with the virtual environment of a never-before-seen landscape that was home to a former indigenous group of Southern Brazil.

Based at our MediaCity campus’ Development Lab, Southern Jê: Exploring Indigenous Heritage Through Immersive Technologies, will introduce visitors to the world of the Jê, an Amerindian Indigenous group.

Opening from Monday 16 October until Friday 20 October, the installation will immerse people amongst the landscape of the Jê, whose cultural heritage remains largely shrouded in mystery and open to interpretation.

The Jê’s modern descendants are represented by the ethnic groups of the Kaigang and Xokleng, based in southern Brazil, and the cultural heritage of the Jê people primarily resides within the memories of their descendants, passed down through stories and myths.

Developed using the Unity 3D game engine and showcased via a 360 physical projection, the experience will allow visitors to seamlessly integrate themselves within the environment and interact with it using an interactive table and a hololens device (a mixed reality headset).

Dr Juan Hiriart, Senior Lecturer in Interactive Media Arts and Design at the University of Salford, said: “This is a groundbreaking immersive experience that will bring visitors into the virtual environment of an indigenous community in Brazil which has been the subject of archaeological fascination for generations.

“Many people in the UK will be completely unaware of what has been happening in Brazil and the ongoing brutal persecution of its indigenous communities, resulting in ethnocide and cultural genocide. Southern Jê will help educate people on this and also showcase the potential of using this technology to inform archaeological discussions and research on South America’s indigenous past.

The wider research project, which has involved researchers and technicians from the University of Salford and multiple universities and museums across Brazil and Belgium, will be utilised in workshops and online sessions for indigenous children at the University Federal of Santa Catarina in Brazil where the children will be able to enter and interact with the virtual space through metaverse technology.

Juan said: “The project’s mission is to collaborate with archaeologists and indigenous partners, harnessing the power of new and emerging digital technologies to shed light on their distant past and present challenges.

“This project seeks to restore and celebrate the rich tapestry of indigenous identities woven into the fabric of Latin American culture and DNA.”

Virtual reconstructions such as this have great potential for archaeologists and indigenous communities alike, as they allow both sides to image and explore an environment together in a way that was not possible before.

Juan added: “Archaeologists have been studying the Jê for decades but most of their knowledge resides on scientific publications. This virtual reconstruction will help to disseminate this information while also opening spaces for further discussions and interpretations.”

Alongside the immersive exhibition, a series of talks will also take place at our Media City campus on Wednesday 18 October from 3pm about the project and its research implications. These talks are:

  • Professor Erik Champion, Enterprise Fellow and Emeritus Professor at the University of South Australia and former UNESCO Chair of Cultural Heritage and Visualisation on Extended Reality and Heritage Futures
  • Dr Priscilla Ulguim of Vrije Universiteit Brussel on Towards Collaborative Archaeogaming
  • Dr Juan Hiriart on Immersive Technology and Indigenous Heritage Preservation.

Reserve your spot for the series of talks by booking a free ticket here

The exhibition will be open for public viewing from 4pm to 6pm on Monday 16 October and then from 2pm to 6pm from Tuesday 17 October until Friday 20 October.

The full research group for the Southern Jê project consists of:

  • Main investigator Dr Juan Hiriat and Nathan Bowman from the University of Salford
  • Roger McKinley, Tamsin Middleton, Glen Watts, Josh Joseph, Connoll Pavey, Jake Orton and Joseph Fowler from the University of Salford’s Creative Technical Services team.
  • Matteo Manfredi, a Master’s student in Games and Extended Reality and Megan Clark, a BA Digital Media and XR graduate.
  • Priscilla Ulguim from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Florencio Rékág Fernandes from Terra Indígena Rio das Cobras in Paraná, Brazil
  • Claudia Parellada from the Department Arqueologia at Museu Paranaense in Curitiba, Brazil
  • Juliana Salles Machado from the Department de História at Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Florianópolis, Brazil
  • Silvia Moehlecke Copé from the Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul,
  • Fabíola Silva from Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia at Universidade de São Paulo

For all press office enquiries please email communications@salford.ac.uk.