Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff spent much of his life studying the oral culture of the Tukano Indians in the Northwest Amazon, including twenty years simply learning the four key Tukanoan languages. Through his translations and commentaries of the yuruparí fertility mythologem and ritual complex, Tukano oral art is revealed as an important expression of tribal philosophical and religious thought.
The four Tukano "texts" in this volume "speak of emotions, paint images, and construct sceneries." They contain coded cultural history and lead us into the meaning of oral traditions: meaning contained in admonitions, instructions, and explanations which constitute the fundamental precepts of social customs, conflict resolution, gender attitudes, and ecology. Reichel-Dolmatoff places the analytical study of South American oral art on a par with the great exegetic traditions of the Old World.