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,