This book is an account and interpretation of the Hain, the principal ceremony of the Selknam, a now extinct people who inhabited the southernmost region of Patagonia at the tip of South America. In this isolated, cold and inhospitable territory, the Selknam practised a surprising body painting related to this ceremony.
The Selknam were a nomadic people organised in small family groups who lived from guanaco hunting. They met in large numbers on certain occasions, such as the initiation of adolescents or to take leave of the dead. The drama of their extinction, the result of White colonisation, began in 1880. Foreign diseases and the activities of guards or bounty hunters were among the causes of their irreversible demise.
Hain deals with the spectacular initiation ceremony of Selknam male adolescents. Through an intense physical and spiritual training, they learned the secrets and traditions of their people from their elders. The author recounts and interprets the Hain of 1923, one of the last to be held, at a time when the Selknam were already almost extinct. It was recorded in astonishing texts and photographs by the German anthropologist Father Martin Gusinde.