He was born on Manhattan's Lower East Side and grew up in Brooklyn. In 1939 he graduated from the Stuyvesant High School, moving on to the City College of New York, graduating in 1943 after having majored in mathematics and art. During World War II he served as a radar repairman in the U.S. Army.
In 1947, after briefly studying painting with Rufino Tamayo at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Schneebaum went to live and paint in Mexico for three years, living among the Lakadone tribe. In 1955 he won a Fulbright fellowship to travel and paint in Peru. After hitch-hiking from New York to Peru, he lived with the Harakambut people for seven months, where he slept with his male subjects and claimed to have joined the tribe in cannibalism on one occasion.
Until 1970 he was the designer at Tiber Press, then in 1973 he embarked on his third overseas trip, to Irian Jaya in South East Asia, living with the Asmat people on the south-western coast. He helped establish the Asmat Museum of Culture and Progress. Schneebaum would return there in 1995 to revisit a former lover, named Aipit. He recounted his journey into the jungles of Peru in the 1961 memoir Keep the River on Your Right. In 1999, he revisited both Irian Jaya and Peru for a documentary film, also titled Keep the River on Your Right
Tobias Schneebaum, 1991, by Robert Giard
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)Schneebaum spent the final years of his life in Westbeth Artists Community, an artists' commune in Greenwich Village, New York City, also home to Merce Cunningham and Diane Arbus, and died in 2005 in Great Neck, New York. He bequeathed his renowned Asmat shield collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and his personal papers are preserved within the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Studies.
Schneebaum received a Master of Arts in anthropology at The New School in New York City, and another from Goddard College, Plainfield, Vermont.
Wild Man (Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiographies) by Tobias Schneebaum
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press; 1 edition (September 15, 2003)
Amazon: Wild Man (Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiographies)
Part autobiographical journal, part social-historical novel, Wild Man tracks Tobias Schneebaum's fascinating and almost epic life story, from his earliest contemplation of homoerotic desire through his life in Peru, Borneo, and beyond. A young man from New York, Schneebaum "disappeared" in 1955 on the eastern slopes of the Andes. He was, in actuality, living for more than a year among the remote Harakhambut people, discovering a way of being that was strange, primitive, and powerfully attractive to him. This longing to find the "wild man" in other cultures—and in himself—eventually led him on an odyssey through South America, India, Tibet, Africa, Borneo, New Guinea, and Southeast Asia. He lived among isolated forest peoples, including headhunters and cannibals, in regions where few, if any, white men had ever been.
Keep the River on Your Right by Tobias Schneebaum
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Grove Press (January 12, 1994)
Amazon: Keep the River on Your Right
In 1955, armed with a penknife and instructions to keep the river on his right, Brooklyn-born artist Tobias Schneebaum set off into the jungles of Peru in search of a tribe of cannibals. Forgoing all contact with civilization, he lived as a brother with the Akaramas –– shaving and painting his body, hunting with Stone Age weapons, sleeping in the warmth of the body-pile.
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
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