Sunday, 29 January 2017

Gufan, the 2000 year old Brazilian


In 2013 I visited the Paranaense Museum with Dr. Moacir Elias Santos. At that time I was in Curitiba to present the face of an Andean mummy, on the occasion of the II Happy Mommy's Day.
Panel printed with Gufan's facial reconstruction process - Photo: Karen Becker
Dr. Moacir had told me that I would be surprised by the rich collection of the museum. In fact I was surprised, every room I could see pieces and more pieces, which together made up a historical panel, not only of the state of Paraná, but of Brazil and even of other countries.

TV story about the facial reconstruction of Gufan and the use of virtual reality

After dazzling myself with old vestments, pictures, coins and infographics, we arrived at a room where the bones of an abogirinal child of a few hundred years were being presented.

I wasted no time and took a series of photographs of the skull, already with the intention of digitizing it in 3D and later reconstruct it.

As soon as I returned to Mato Grosso, that's exactly what I did. I showed the work to Dr. Moacir and he appreciated it, but he asked me to contact those responsible for the museum so that they would know about the work I was doing, after all, I had not agreed with them to use the pictures.

I called the museum, explained the situation and the clerk transferred me to Dr. Claudia Parellada. Undoing my initial fears, which foresaw a future dominated by coercion, she was interested in the idea of reconstruction and not only allowed me to post the work on my site, but also raised the possibility of building a partnership, since she relied on others skulls, some of them over a thousand years old.

The facial reconstruction project

The story does not stop there. In 2008 I traveled to Curitiba for the first time at the invitation of my friend Alessandro Binhara, to lecture on Blender and computer graphics at the educational institution he was working on. The talk was given and we agreed to one day we would work on a project together.

Steps of facial reconstruction

Nine years passed and the opportunity appeared. I closed an in-house workshop with Mr. Binhara, Beenoculus staff, and my other buddy, the developer Sandro Bihaiko. The plan was to bring together a number of experts and study some applications using virtual and augmented reality.

In the meantime I realized that it was a good opportunity to resume the discussions with the staff of the Paranaense Museum and I went back to talking with Dr. Claudia Parellada and Dr. Renato Carneiro, director of the institution.

I learned then that they had a rich collection of skulls, and among them was Gufan, a 2000-year-old proto-Jê autochthon. The name Gufan comes from the Kaingang language and means "ancestor". For the integrity of the anatomical piece she proved to be the most apt to be reconstructed.

Dr. Parellada and Dr. Carneiro collected all the data about Gufan, as well as sent me a series of photos that served as a basis for 3D scanning by the photogrammetry technique. Shortly afterwards I had the skull digitized and the reconstruction work started.

Facial reconstruction

The process of facial reconstruction went smoothly with nothing new in relation to the other works. Starting with the positioning of soft tissue thickness markers, I then went through digital sculpture, retopo (simplification of the mesh), mapping and pigmentation, and finally the placement of hair and generation of images.

The base of facial texture
It must be documented that I received the mapping references with an international flavor. My friend Santiago González photographed one of his students in Lima, Peru and sent a series of images to be used at work. I take this opportunity to thank him and the student!

I had to resort to this solution because here in my city I did not have any individuals with indigenous traits to take pictures. I thought about it a little and turned to my Peruvian friends, since in that beautiful country, a considerable part of the population carries the appearance of its historic and warrior people.

The Virtual Reality

With the face of Gufan reconstructed I traveled to Curitiba where I would meet with the team to carry out our project. The works took place at the premises of Beenoculus, a virtual reality glasses assembly company and interactive content.

The excitement was so great that our workshop was just about creating a presentation for Gufan. Beenoculus donated a state-of-the-art goggles, my friend Binhara came in with cutting-edge machinery, a generous video card for the application to roll without choking, and Sandro Bihaiko wrote the application with the help of local officials.

While the presentation was developed on one side, we moved to the Paranaense Museum to see if everything was right with the space where the revelation would be held. A panel was assembled illustrating the stages of facial reconstruction, we talked about the distribution of the elements and seats and everything was right, just wait for the big day.

The face presentation

The presentation of the face of Gufan was held on January 24, 2016. Initially we expected 20 to 30 people, but I articulated a rapprochement with the press in order to supplant that number without much pretension, of course.

Before traveling to Curitiba I composed a release with the digital technology personnel and the management of the Paranaense Museum. I also telephoned several TVs and newspapers in the city and soon faced the biggest newspaper (Gazeta do Povo) and the biggest TV (RPC, Globo) showed interest in the agenda. The result of all this has been translated into two newspaper covers and a 7-minute story with two live insertions in the midday issue of January 24.

And during the presentation, instead of 20 or 30 people came 170 according to the organizers! A lot of people had to attend the two lectures standing. Total success!


I just have to thank everyone who made this possible: Claudia Parellada, Renato Carneiro, Alessandro Binhara, Sandro Bihaiko, Anelise Daux, Junior Evangelista Terrabuio, Rawlinson Terrabuio, Matheus Dalla, Victor Ullmann, Amilton Binhara, Adelina Binhara, Lucas Gabriel Marins, Durval Ramos, Angieli Maros, Fernanda Fraga, Keyse Caldeira, Caroline Olinda Everton da Rosa e  Karen Lisse Fukushima.

Not forgetting to mention the companies and institutions involved: Paranaense Museum, Azuris, Beenoculus, State Secretary of Culture of Paraná, Government of Paraná, Arc-Team Italy and all the press.

I hope from the bottom of my heart that this partnership continues and that good news the future holds. A big hug and thank you for reading!

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