Piper Comanche Full of Arrows
This photograph was sent to me a couple of times with questions of what it might portray and I just had to track it down.
The photograph was first posted to Reddit as This aircraft belongs to a conservation team in The Amazon. Yikes! and then again in September with its current headline, The anthropologists decided that this tribe was to remain “uncontacted”. It was the second description that took off, even though in both instances the descriptions was pretty quickly debunked.
The Piper Comanche in the photo is actually part of an art exhibition in Buenos Aires.
The Cuban artist collective Los Carpinteros is showing three large-scale installations at Buenos Aires’s Faena Arts Centre in May. They have created a new site-specific sculpture especially for the arts centre’s 700 sq ft “Sala Molinos” exhibition space and are also installing two earlier works—a Piper Comanche single-prop plane pierced by arrows and a sprawling shantytown neighbourhood built entirely from corrugated cardboard.
The piece is called Avião. Los Carpinteros say that they produced it as a symbol of modernization: the modern transport contrasting with the wood-and-feather arrows.
It seems likely that the idea came from the Sentinelese, a pre-Neolithic tribe living on the Andaman Islands who are notably hostile to outsiders. In 2006, Sentinelese archers killed two fishermen who strayed into their territory.
The two men killed, Sunder Raj, 48, and Pandit Tiwari, 52, were fishing illegally for mud crabs off North Sentinel Island, a speck of land in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands archipelago.
Fellow fishermen said they dropped anchor for the night on Jan 25 but fell into a deep sleep, probably helped by large amounts of alcohol.
During the night their anchor, a rock tied to a rope, failed to hold their open-topped boat against the currents and they drifted towards the island.
“As day broke, fellow fishermen say they tried to shout at the men and warn them they were in danger,” said Samir Acharya, the head of the Society for Andaman and Nicobar Ecology, an environmental organisation.
“However they did not respond – they were probably drunk – and the boat drifted into the shallows where they were attacked and killed.”
After the fishermen’s families raised the alarm, the Indian coastguard tried to recover the bodies using a helicopter but was met by the customary hail of arrows.
Avião may also have been inspired by another similar piece which has a very different message.
Borrowing Your Enemy’s Arrows is by Cai Guo-Qiang and on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
The title—which alludes to a text from the third century (known as Sanguozhi)—refers to an episode in which the general Zhuge Liang, facing an imminent attack from the enemy, manages to replenish a depleted store of arrows. According to legend, Zhuge Liang tricked the enemy by sailing across the Yangtze river through the thick mist of early dawn with a surrogate army made of straw, while his soldiers remained behind yelling and beating on drums. Mistaking the pandemonium for a surprise attack, the enemy showered the decoys with volleys of arrows. Thus the general returned triumphantly with a freshly captured store of weapons.
So that’s the story behind the aircraft full of arrows. The only real question is whether the aircraft is still in flyable condition; certainly if they’d used a Piper Arrow instead of the Comanche, one could say it was perfectly arrowdynamic.
I’ll get my coat…