Xapiri – Culture in Cusco

Xapiri’s mission has always been to raise awareness about Amazonian indigenous culture and the pressures that it faces both through the promotion of tribal artwork, as well as by holding cultural events and encouraging critical thinking. This month we held our first two cultural events, both big successes!

On July 7th we screened “Xapiri,” an experimental film on Yanomani shamanism and the ceremonies associated with yakoana. Far more people showed up than we had been expecting, and there was an atmosphere of openness and curiosity as people trickled (or poured) in to our cozy space. The film was advertised as starting at 7pm; so many people showed up so quickly that we had to close the doors at 7pm sharp, and were able to start shortly afterward. Except for a few small technological glitches, the event was a huge success.

The film is, for lack of a better word, trippy. Yakoana is a powerful psychotropic preparation used by the Yanomani to connect with the Xapiri, or spirits of the forest, and the film does a great job at depicting a different reality to the one we live in from day to day. We hear the chanting of the shaman, the sounds of the forest, and the image is often blurry or double exposed. We see the Yanomani village, the central area where the ceremony is held, we can almost feel the heat as we watch men dancing in the haze of the sun. At one point children climb in the trees, jumping from branch to branch, at another, women lounge in hammocks, staring into the ceiling or laughing.
It was a new, colourful, and stimulating experience, and when the film ended and everyone could stand and stretch their legs, many stayed behind to chat about the film over a beer. We plan to make film screenings a regular event with our “cineclub” and we’re excited about all the enthusiasm and the the great conversations to come.




Our second event was held only four days later on 10 July. Called “Trayectorias de la traduccion” (Trajectories of translation) it was, in the end, a look at indigenous languages, their use, and the threats they face in a changing world. Evelyn Schuler Zea, an anthropologist at the university of Florianopolis, Brazil, opened the event with some thoughts on translation. Then we heard from Jorge Alejandro Vargas Prado, a local musician and Quechua poet, about his experience as a Quechua speaker and former academic. Jorge Choquehuillca Hualpa, also a musician of the Quechua nation, played some music and shared his thoughts on Quechua integration in Peru and the cultural differences that underpin indigenous cosmovision. Finally Hector Sueyo spoke. Hector is a member of the Harakbut tribe of Madre de Dios region of Cusco, and author of a new book about his father’s experiences growing up before contact with the outside world. After the presentations, an enthralling discussion ensued. From travelers to students, to academics (and just about everyone in between) shared ideas and asked questions for several hours.

We are infinitely grateful to all of the people – from film makers to academics to the many interested and invested locals and travelers – for coming to share and learn in Xapiri’s space. We’re excited to continue this trend of cultural events, film screenings, and meaningful and heartfelt discussion on indigenous issues and art. So stay tuned for upcoming events!



Xapiri – Open in Cusco

After 3 months in preparation, on Friday the 31st March we officially opened our doors here in the historic centre of Cusco. For those travelling to Peru in the coming months please do drop by and say ‘Hola’ !


Photo – Door of the Xapiri gallery in Cusco.

Our opening evening coincided with the premiere of the photography exhibition ‘The River is Life’ by Alice Kohler, who travelled from her home in Brazil to join us for the inauguration of our new Amazonian themed gallery. The aim of the exhibition is to raise awareness for the social and environmental consequences caused by the recently finished and 3rd largest hydroelectric dam in the world, Belo Monte, located on the Xingu river in the Brazilian Amazon. The subject of the photos focuses on the Araweté people, a hunter and gatherer tribe of around 500 people who live on the banks of the Ipixuna, a right bank tributary to the Xingu river. For more information please see the article we published with the Guardian newspaper here.

The evening began with the photographer, Alice, talking about her photos and the developments on the Xingu during her visits to the indigenous communities over the past 10 years. After her speech there was an open discussion where many ideas were exchanged by the audience and Alice. Thoughts were raised to the possible solutions for the issues effecting indigenous people and their land, with the common consensus being that indigenous lands must be protected, as a starting point! There are of course many examples of how protecting indigenous land can be done, both positive and negative. Unfortunately, due to the vast areas of these territories, even when land is officially protected by the government it is often extremely difficult to monitor and actively protect.

Shared views here:  How to protect Peru’s rainforest? Indigenous land titles, researchers say


Photo – Jack Wheeler from Xapiri and Alice Kohler.

It was a beautiful evening and great to have so many people together in the same room, all concerned for the Amazon region and its people. The thought which was echoed by all in attendance was that the time is now to fight for protection of the land and indigenous rights.. it is paramount for us all.

‘It is time for change. Time for the rainforest to be protected, time for indigenous people to freely continue their way of life, maintain their culture and determine their own future. For the wider world to understand, learn from and give the diverse mix of ethnic groups in Amazonia the respect they deserve.’ – Taken from the reference section on the Xapiri website.

Photo gallery below of the opening event:

It was an inspiring start here in Cusco and a positive continuation of our growing movement. Now we are planning future events; screening documentaries, hosting discussions and other Amazonian themed evenings ! All with an aim to bring more people and ideas together, to strengthen the fight and to create positive change.. together!



Xapiri -all Roads lead to Cusco

Happy New Year Friends!

We start January 2017 writing from a very cold U.K following 4 months travelling and developing connections in South America. The journey ended in the magical city of Cusco and it is there where Xapiri will be taking its next steps.

After much consideration we have decided that Cusco is the ideal location to act as a base for the project. You may ask ‘Why’ … the marvel of the Inca empire is not exactly Amazonia but the connection to the jungle and indigenous cause could not be stronger. With the diverse mix of international travellers and engaged locals, it is here where we feel the Xapiri movement can flourish.

For us personally, Cusco offers inspiration and a high Condor view of possibilities and connections. Geographically the city offers easy access to all corners of the vast Amazonian basin for our future expeditions. We feel that in many of the frontier towns of Amazonia, the visiter often returns from the jungle with a superficial view of Amazonian life. Unfortunately, a typical tour or jungle experience gives little understanding or authentic insight to the Amazonian life. So it will be at our base in the Cusco mountains where we invite you to visit, connect and understand the reality of Amazonia and its people.

The space will act as a hub for displaying the art and as a meeting point for all involved with the indigenous cause. We plan to screen documentaries, photography exhibitions, workshops and much more so stay tuned with our developments throughout 2017.


Finally, we  are excited to announce the ‘Uitsun Friendship Bracelet‘ project in partnership with the Matsés indigenous people who inhabit some of most remote rainforests in the world in both Peru and Brazil. The Matsés inhabit the heart of the Amazon Rainforest, an area of staggering natural beauty and almost inconceivable biodiversity, but a land deeply troubled and beset with threats from narco-traffickers, multinational petroleum companies, and loggers. It is one of the last frontiers.


Friendship bracelets, known as Uitsun, are specific to the Matsés tribe. Taking over a day to construct, they are weaved from natural home spun tree cotton on a rustic loom. They are comfortable, durable, unisex and are adjustable in size, making the bracelets suitable for all situations, be it in the jungle or the city.

In Matsés culture, these woven ornaments are tied on the wrist or ankle. A sister puts on her little brothers ankle ornament by slipping the knotted ends through little loops. As she grows, a girl will weave for her brother, her husband and then for her children, just as the boy will grow to ask for ornaments from his mother, his sister, and eventually his wife. Although these bracelets are still worn as accoutrements of daily wear, the knowledge of their craft is not being passed down and learned by the younger Matsés women and this is why the initiative was created to provide Matsés women the opportunity to earn income on their own while preserving their inherited traditions.


The Uitsun project is organised and directly coordinated with the Matsés leadership with help and facilitation from the brilliant Acaté Amazon Conservation. The project aims to involve as many villages and craftspersons as possible across the wide Matsés territory, allowing us to work with over 40 Matsés women in 4 villages. Each bracelet will be delivered to it’s new owner with documentation showing the community of origin and details of the individual Matsés artisan. This artisanal fair trade develops sustainable, regular and longterm economic opportunities directly benefiting the Matsés. The Matsés could not be more excited and enthusiastic for this project, which is being directly coordinated by the Matsés leadership with the support of Acaté.


As our friends Acaté politely put;

‘This holiday season please consider purchasing these extraordinary beautiful crafts as unique and beautiful gifts that comes from the heart of the rainforest. Buy one for your significant others and know that your purchase directly supports the livelihood of the true protectors of the rainforest.’

Thank you for the support, until next time,


Xapiri – Manaus to Pucallpa

For the past month we have been navigating the Amazon, heading against the current from central Amazonia in Manaus (Brazil) to the edge of the Andes in Pucallpa (Peru).

We flew to Manaus in early November and spent 5 days in the city making connections to some indigenous organisations and supporters. Firstly we visited the Waimiri Atroari Program who have a museum, a small shop and their offices located a short bus ride from the city centre. We spent our afternoon talking to the volunteers and a few Waimiri Atroari men who had travelled to the city from their territory 10 hours + to the north. The program together with the bravery of the Waimiri Atroari people have for the past decades fought against invaders to their land. From the impact of 3 major projects; BR 174 Road – Manaus to Boa Vista, the Pitinga Mineral Project and the Electronorte Hydroelectric plant.


Photo – Homero Martins (ISA)

With the objective of compensating the environmental and socio-cultural impacts resulting from these projects, the Waimiri Atroari program was created with focus in the areas of health, education, environmental protection, production activities and cultural valorisation. As a result of these actions they have managed to get rid of the violent process of loss of culture through which most of the indigenous peoples pass after indiscriminate contact with non indigenous people. Today, they all speak their mother tongue while maintaining traditional culture; living in circular villages composed of large collective malocas where they live from hunting, fishing and traditional agriculture.

The Xapiri gallery are selling 3 Waimiri Atroari baskets which can be seen below and via this link.

Also in Manaus we visited the brilliant Galeria Amazônica located on the central plaza who also work with the arts produced by the Waimiri Atroari but who also feature a selection of indigenous art from many different ethnic groups. If you are ever in Manaus you must pop by and say ‘Hola’!

On the other hand, when in Manaus please do not give the time to visit the very poor self titled ‘Museo do Indio’ which gives an extremely outdated and misleading insight into tribal life. With time, we recommend a visit to the ‘Centro Cultural dos Povos Amazonia’ which offers excellent guides who can give you an authentic impression to contemporary indigenous culture.


A 600 year old Angelim Pedra tree in Manaus, Photo by Tui Anandi.

After leaving Manaus we travelled for 1 week by boat as we meandered towards the tri-border of Brazil, Colombia and Peru. A few snaps from the boat journey here:

After arriving in Letecia, we quickly took a boat to a small Ticuna community called Gamboa just 30 minutes from the city. Here we spent 4 days getting to know Ticuna culture by staying with the village chief ‘Terturiano’ in his small stilted home.

Our days were spent walking through the jungle, fishing, helping in home improvements and above all talking about the rich Ticuna culture. The Ticuna are one of the most populous tribes in Amazonia with a combined population of over 50,000 with their vast territory in Brazil, Colombia and Peru. To read more about the Ticuna please follow this link.

A photo gallery of our time with the Ticuna can be viewed below, all images captured by Tui Anandi.

A selection of Ticuna arts can be found via the Xapiri gallery, please follow this link to shop.

The next stop up river was the largest metropolis in the Peruvian Amazon, Iquitos ! A manic town full of tours and ayahuasca retreats, we spent a few days visiting museums before finding the need to get back on the river. From Iquitos we took a 8 day boat south on the Ucayali river to Pucallpa, gradually winding our way south through the dense jungle.

Pucallpa was our final stop where we were excited to meet Alianza Arkana, an organisation working with a number of Shipibo indigenous communities in the region. We are currently discussing a partnership together to promote and develop Shipibo arts.. stay tuned!


Many amazing connections have been made and we are excited to develop our relationships both with the indigenous people directly and the organisations who work closely with them.

We are currently in Cusco, so if you are here or visiting, please do get in touch!

More news soon, with peace and love,




Xapiri – Asurini do Xingu Expedition

This month we write to you once more from Brazil, following our recent return from an Amazonian expedition to visit the Asurini do Xingu indigenous tribe. The Asurini were first contacted in 1971 by Brazilian society, when the presence of whites intensified in the region due to the construction of the Trans-Amazon Highway, allowing the emergence of new economic activities such as mining and cattle ranching. Economic developments continue today with the Belo Monte dam standing large (more on that later..)

In the 1980’s the Asurini population had fallen to around 50 after sickness transmitted from the whites had ravaged the non-immunised village. Today the population is around 200 people, with the recovery due to a healthy increase in infants.

‘Yet, the imminent danger of their physical extinction always stood in contrast with an extreme cultural vitality, manifest in the performance of complex rituals, the practice of shamanism, and an elaborate system of graphic art.’

Sourced:  ISA (Instituto Socioambiental)

Photo by Renato Delarole of an Asurini lady in the 1980’s:


Our journey started started in the dusty city of Altamira (forged by the Trans-Amazon Highway) where we embarked by boat and travelled south down the Xingu River to reach the Asurini village by sunset. For this expedition, we were travelling and collaborating with friends, firstly the amazing photographer Alice Kohler who has established a close relationship with the Asurini people with numerous visits over the past 10 years. Secondly we were joined by the brilliant CANOA (Centre of Native and Original Arts of America), we are working with CANOA in a joint effort to improve the trade and logistical structures for the art produced by the Asurini.

The purpose of the trip was to develop our relationships with the Asurini, learn more about their culture and to work together with their outstanding arts. The tribe have many beautiful arts of which nearly all incorporate stunning graphic / geometric patterns. For now, we will be working with and developing the trade for both their ceramics and textiles. We spent precious time with a few Asurini families, recording the artistic and material process behind their creations. Over the coming weeks we will be editing the media to create a few short videos to share!

Asurini Ceramics: (Photos by Tui Anandi and Jack Wheeler)

The work we do with these arts is an important part of the mission behind Xapiri and something we strongly believe is vital for maintaining traditions, culture and identity for indigenous people but also as a sustainable economy for the communities.

Asurini Textiles: (Photos by Tui Anandi)


We would like to finish by writing a short overview of how the Asurini people live today and how they are in a state of rapid change. As mentioned in the opening paragraph the Asurini were first ‘contacted’ just 45 years ago when Brazilian society encroached on their land looking for new riches as the rainforest was opened up due to the Trans-Amazon Highway and the growth of Altamira. Today, Altamira acts as the nearest city to the huge new dam ‘Belo Monte’ – the 3rd largest in the world. Big money, more people and easier access to the Asurini land is in turn bringing new ‘development’ but this is not always for the better good.

In the Koatinemo village where we spent the majority of our time, there was a feel of construction, a new clinic had recently been built and a medium size school was in mid structure. However, most noticeable is the housing, all but a few of the families now live in modern concrete box houses with tin roofs, recently constructed by outside funds. These houses are noticeably much warmer than the traditional houses which are wooden in structure, with thatched roofs. So much so that most families spend their time in their traditional houses which are normally still standing next to their new concrete homes. This is a prime example of how new is not always best, the indigenous people over centuries of living in the rainforest know their land and are experts in how to live optimally in the Amazonian climate, connected closely to nature for their daily needs.

It is of course too simplistic to suggest that all development is negative but sustainability must be considered before quick development dominates indigenous culture and tradition. After seeing all of this development and impact from the ‘modern’ world a quote from Villas-Bôas came to mind:

‘O índio só sobrevive na sua própria cultura’ – The Indian only survives in their own culture.

Here is a short video give an overview to the impact of the Belo Monte dam;

Belo Monte: After the Flood – In the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, an epic battle to stop the world’s third-largest hydroelectric dam on the Xingu River lasted for decades. Ignoring widespread protests and warnings from scientists, while riding roughshod over the rule of law, the Brazilian government insisted on pushing ahead with Belo Monte, no matter what the cost.

For more information about this expedition, please do get in touch via email at peace@xapiri.com or keep up to date with more stories and media from the exhibition via our social media platforms.

Facebook, Twitter & Instagram

We are now in Manuas, spending a few days making connections with indigenous associations and supporters before a month of river travel as we head west to Peru!

A map of our planned route can be seen by clicking here:


If anyone would like to meet somewhere on this route or if you have recommendations please do get in touch!

With peace & love,





Xapiri – the Guarani

For Septembers Xapiri blog, we write from Brazil where we will be staying for the coming months, visiting and working with various indigenous tribes in the region. Our focus is to develop our relationships with the communities, to improve the structure for artisan fair trade and to create media aimed at giving an authentic impression into the people’s way of life.

On the 10th September we made our first visit to the Guarani Ñandeva village in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro where one extended family of approximately 40 people live, continuing their traditional way of life in the rainforest situated on the stunning mountainous slopes, a short drive outside the town of Paraty.

We were warmly welcomed to the village and shortly found ourselves sitting with the elders passing around a drink of cold mate (a traditional South American herbal drink) and talking about the village and its history. The Guarani people are split into 3 subgroups and are named Kaiowá, M’byá and Ñandeva, with a large population of around 270,000 peoples widely dispersed over South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay). They were some of the first indigenous people to be contacted by European colonisation 500 years ago and have a history filled of struggle, as they have fought to stay on their land and maintain their traditions.

The Guarani are thought to have originally lived in the Amazon jungle before gradually dispersing southward, now having a varied territory with a huge range stretching over the 4 counties. The Rio Pequono village we visited is an Guarani Ñandeva settlement and is best described as Atlantic Rainforest. Although Xapiri’s primary focus is to work with Amazonian tribes it is important to note that the Guarani people inhabit lands not solely in the Amazon.


For the Rio Pequeno village, the chief with his young family moved to the richness of the Atlantic rainforest from Mato Grosso around 20 years ago, seeking shelter and land for where they could preserve their culture and traditions. Survival International quote; ‘For as long as they can remember, the Guarani have been searching – searching for a place revealed to them by their ancestors where people live free from pain and suffering, which they call ‘the land without evil’. Over hundreds of years, the Guarani have travelled vast distances in search of this land.’

The Rio Pequeno community are currently trying to protect their land here by creating an official ‘indigenous reserve’ but this may take some time as the proposed land is not big enough under current government policy. A possible solution would be to increase the protected area but this would mean displacing other non-indigenous residents living in the region.

We talked about the relationships within the tribe and it was explained that inter-tribal marriage was accepted, in this village their was a young man from the Guajajara tribe in northern Brazil who had married a Guarani lady. It was also pointed out with a smile that no ‘branco’ (white man) would be accepted to the village unless under unique circumstances where the outsider may have lived in the village for considerable time, fully immersed in their culture.

The afternoon was full of dancing and ritual culminating in the ‘Xondaru Dance’ where the whole tribe was present in the communal building. The dance was centered around one strong warrior and his maraca instrument, calling each and everyone of his tribal members to challenge, chase and dance with him.

He would chase the ‘challenger’ with the maraca as his weapon to the beat of the elders chanting and stomping percussion in the background, in a physical dual of rhythm and defence. The chase was to symbolise the importance and need of the Guarani to be able to defend themselves and acted as a way to keep the warriors fit and strong. The intense ritual lasted for over 30 minutes and even by the end, the lead warrior did not boast a bead of sweat..

A short video can be seen here:

Over the next few weeks we will returning to the Guarani Ñandeva village and also visiting other Guarani communities to develop our relationships, discuss fair trade with the art while creating media (photography & media) to share and show their rich culture.

Later in October, we will be visiting the Assurini do Xingu tribe in Pará (Brazilian Amazon) before heading west towards Peru, we will keep you updated, with peace and love,


Xapiri – Amazonian Video

For the Xapiri blog this August, we will be sharing a selection of our favourite video which has been created in or for the Amazon region and its people. Following our June blog on Amazonian Photography, video as like photography can be an important tool for promoting human rights, raising awareness, documenting change, anthropology study, increasing community confidence and much more.

Xapiri ourselves will be taking part in fieldwork next month as we fly to Brazil to visit some of the indigenous groups we are working with. We will be developing relationships, continuing the fair trade with the art and also producing video to give a deeper insight to the tribes we work with. We will be focusing on how the art is made but also delving deeper into the current indigenous situation from each community we visit.

We will be sharing news from our travels in Brazil and Peru for the next few months so please keep up to date via our social medial channels:

Facebook, Instagram & Twitter

Here is a selection of some of our favourite media, created from different angles and for different purposes. Sometimes created by the indigenous people themselves and other times from the outside, however they all share a common goal and have inspired us as we hope they will to you too. We must all work together to raise awareness, preserve the land and share the vast beauty and knowledge that the Amazon and its people have to offer.

Belo Monte Announcement of a War:

This is an independent documentary made during 3 expeditions at the Xingu River, Altamira, Brasília and São Paulo. It presents very serious facts about Belo Monte dam, the biggest and most polemical construction going on in Brazil today.


 Behind the Scenes of ‘As Hiper Mulheres’:

‘As Hiper Mulheres’ is a Brazilian documentary film, directed by Fausto Carlos, Leonardo Sette and Takuma Kuikuro. The film was shot in the Xingu National Park, Mato Grosso, Brazil. This film was a project of Video nas Aldeias (VNA, Video in the Villages). Since its beginnings, the project’s goal has been to support indigenous peoples’ struggles in order to strengthen identities and territorial and cultural heritages, through audiovisual resources and a shared production with the indigenous peoples Vídeo nas Aldeias works with.


Mark Plotkin: What the people of the Amazon know that you don’t:

“The greatest and most endangered species in the Amazon rainforest is not the jaguar or the harpy eagle,” says Mark Plotkin, “It’s the isolated and uncontacted tribes.” In an energetic and sobering talk, the ethnobotanist brings us into the world of the forest’s indigenous tribes and the incredible medicinal plants that their shamans use to heal. He outlines the challenges and perils that are endangering them — and their wisdom — and urges us to protect this irreplaceable repository of knowledge.


Õkãpomaɨ – Expedition Yanomami:

A look at the current strategy of the  Yanomami as they defend their territory, the largest indigenous land in the country and one of the largest areas of protected forest in Brazil.


Uma casa, uma vida:

Film made by young Xavante in partnership with the collective Raiz Das Imagens from the workshops created at Santa Cruz and Belem Villages. The purpose of this video is to show the importance of the traditional masonry inside the Xavante communities.


Keep Oil in the Ground:

Call for an end to Amazon oil drilling! The science is clear: we have to keep two-thirds of fossil fuels in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change, so why are we looking for more? We need to start keeping oil in the ground, and the Amazon is a great place to start. With Amazon Watch you can sign a petition here.


Embrace of the Serpent – Trailer:

Tracking two parallel odysseys through the Amazon three decades apart, this visionary adventure epic from Colombian director Ciro Guerra offers a heart-rending depiction of colonialism laying waste to indigenous culture.


If you enjoyed our setection of Amazonian media, you may like to see the Xapiri library on Youtube where many other videos are saved, from jungle sounds to old documentaries.

Until next time when we will be writing from Brazil, with peace & love,