The Great Indigenous Games in Porto Seguro, Brazil
was the logo of this great event
By Alann de Vuyst (Wéré'è)
This article is composed and enriched with the most accurate way
by Emmanouil Lalaios, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society
'Protect the Indians of the Amazon' was the logo of the Amazon natives during the Great Indigenous Olympic Games that took place in Porto Seguro in November of 2004 with 53 native nations from different States of Brazil
Staying with João Dulls and Maria Ducarmo
Barra do Garças, Mato Grosso, Brazil. In Barra do Garças, I had stayed in a friend’s house named João Dulls. We are only 10 meters of the Araguáia riverbank in Aragarças (State of Goias), a 45 year old city divided from Barra do Garças by the river Araguáia and the river Garças. Both of them are bridged and It took me only 10 minutes to cross the rivers.
Aragarças (State of Goias)
At Berô Can (Karajá for Rio Araguáia) I met Maria Ducarmo, wife of João Dull. They have flourishing shop both here and in Porto Seguro (Bahia State). I felt good to be with friends and take a rest in a nice house that feels like at home after so many months sleeping in hotel and pousada rooms.
Maria Ducarmo in her shop Bero Can in Barra do Garças
The coming event of the Indigenous Nations Games
do Garças, November 17, 2004.
am really disappointed, Alann says, that my sciatica doesn’t heal after
having spent so much time in Abadiânia. I met one woman who got healed of it
by a simple cut of the nerve in her ear done by a Japanese acupuncturist. He
invented it and for two months already no more pain whereas before she
couldn’t nearly bend or move of pain.
back is getting worse and worse and I am going tonight at midnight to Goiânia
and stay there one day and proceed to Porto Seguro for the indigenous games.
Dull just rang me and said he has never experienced anything like that in 50
years. His house will be loaded with Indians. Later I can come back, but with
Ducarmo I cannot stay any more due to lack of space. I could stay one week at
Tereza’s. But the trip is long up and down.
November, 19, 2004. From Goiás State to Bahia State, was at times boring in landscape,
but in the evening I believed we skirted the Chapada dos Veadeiros, where
one can visit the Alto Paraiso town. A region similar to Chapada
Diamantina in the State of Bahia and Chapada das Guimarães in the State
of Mato Grosso. Once in
Bahia state everything went greener, at some points it looked as if I was
at the Scottish highlands.
At Eunápolis, one hour from Porto Seguro, I had my first decent meal, at
At Eunápolis, one hour from Porto Seguro, I had my first decent meal, at last!
The Indigenous Olympic Games in Porto Seguro
Porto Seguro, November, 20, 2004. I arrived on November 20 at 5 pm in Porto Seguro. It had started raining, although drizzle at first; the taxi drove me for a fixed rate of 10 reais to the Artesanato Indígena de Amazônia shop that is at Paralelo Álcool, the tourist center.
Dull’s shop in Porto Seguro
Dull was waiting for me and as we embraced I told him how tired I was. He had no ears to this and asked me to jump in the car. He was going to drive back two Matís Indians to the indigenous games camp. Matís, the first time in my life I meet such recent discovered people.
The Matís Nation in Indigenous Games of Porto Seguro
It was getting late and dark. Though, we managed to get into a hut where other indigenous nations were selling their handicraft. The awesome Enawené Nawé. (Contacted in 1974 and in touch regularly since 1987. I wanted to meet them 15 years ago but the Salesians did not allow me. Those days in the late eighties was said that they were still living naked.
Enawené Nawé come like most in white man's underwear
Jesuit missionary, named Vicente Canã, lived there naked with them in order
not to alter their way of life. He was a man, who had the intention to
postpone the shock with civilization. According to Salesian mestre (Mário
Bordignon), I heard he didn’t even preach the gospel. He was assassinated a
few years ago by loggers who coveted their land for long time.
There I met Heryka, Ducarmo’s second daughter, whom I have know when she was still a child; now a young woman. She was so glad to see me. Thereafter, I met with the Bororo from the missionary reservation Merure. One man recognized me even if almost 14 years went by and he told me:
You are Wéré’è,
aren’t you? You drew my brothers and my portrait. We still have it in the
village. Will you draw me again this time?
Enawené Nawé and Nambiquara at Dull's shop
(on the left is Wéré'è's painting)
met many other boys and girls who recognized me as well, they couldn't have
been older than 5 or 8, such as Marciano, I
stood eye in eye with him, a young man, whom I had known and photographed in
all his regalia as an 8 year old boy and now he is a father of a sibling.
There was the Wai Wai people from the state of Pará, who also had my interest for years to meet them. Dull bought ceramic pots from the Enawené Nawé, which later on resulted in confusion. One Indian had agreed to a price for several pots, but as he was loading them into the car, others showed up and claimed they wanted more for their pot. Dull got upset, not at the Indians, he said, but at the fact, that they weren’t being guided by the responsible persons of the indigenous games set up. Actually, he got a point there, as none of them know our way of negotiating and very few speak enough Portuguese to make themselves understood.
The Wai Wai people from the state of Pará
They may nod at things you said, and one believes they have understood, but they actually haven’t. The Brazilian visitors have no clue of the culture and come to see them more as a circus act or curiosity than anything else. We got home after a two hours looking at things; I was so happy and thrilled. I was glad the day of opening only starts tomorrow at 5.30 pm.
Porto Seguro, November 21, 2004. Information about the great event that happened in Porto Seguro concerning the Indigenous Games
rain persisted and when at 4.30 pm we arrived at the portal of the games which
is on indigenous reservation land of the Pataxó Indians we saw only mud and
more mud. Our car was skidding like surfer all the way near the first huts we
visited yesterday. The Arena opposite was yet to be filled. I saw some Gaviões
Indians walking about painted in black from head to waist wearing red shorts.
Laura left me at the arena, stayed in the car with some intention to see
someone of the organization.
had seen to it that two days previous to the official opening water was
brought to the village. Women had to walk 2 km to get some. Do they really
think that Indians have to be put up in such a way because they live like that
in the jungle?
BASIC INFRASTRUCTURE AVAILABLE. All the Indians have to sleep in hammocks,
this in spite of the knowledge that not all of them use hammocks in their
villages. Per hut are two nations. There are about 1200 Indians present, old
and babies too. Also expected in the coming days: Indians from Guyana,
Bolivia, Chili, Canada and the States!
All of the Indians carry a huge badge on their chest citing their nation’s name. After 10 minutes I saw a huge group of maybe 20 people move out in line and get ready for their ritual chant. It was the Gavião. Awesome. As they were singing some other group came out from another hut that I recognized as a nation from the Xingú reservation.
were Kuikuro. Dull had told me earlier he would introduce me to a relative
of Mariazinha to tell him that she was not well and staying with the boy
at Ducarmo’s. I snapped away in ecstasy of so much beauty of indigenous
culture, until I realized that I had forgotten my films at home. How ill
prepared I was!
I had about twenty shots of Pataxó dressed in straw skirts with intricate black body paint, some of the younger had even experiment with gold paint on their faces.
The Terena with skirts made of ema feathers. The Kayapó
and Xicrin came in with their war chants and many of the Indians around me
piped animal shouts into the air, I felt their happiness and pride of
showing off their millenary culture. Handsome men and boys
accompanied by naked breasted women in amazing gear of exotic feathers and
very colorful bead necklaces hanging in tons over their bodies. The ones
in file were on their way to the arena while the ones still waiting had
started performing their dances.
The Terena with skirts made of ema feathers
4 men here represented one nation: Guajá. They filed totally naked and
except for a string around the prepuce of their penis they bore no paint
or decorative items on their bodies. They were discovered only a few years
ago: They looked so innocent and despite all their brothers being dressed
with shorts and bermudas or swimming trunks they didn’t
seem to see or mind they were standing out by their nakedness and looked
more vulnerable. But I learned from the volunteers who guide or represent
various ethnics, that the Guajá themselves insisted on going naked, even
though others tried to convince them to enter the arena dressed. How the
spectators would snigger at them, because they are exactly the cliché
stereotype of a wild Indian who lives like an animal, I thought.
The naked Guajá
was dark already when the Karajá stood in circle and sang a very soft
chant; a few Xicrin and Kuikuro had a video camera and filmed other
nations beauty too. The Krahô in their lemon green Bermudas, Surui,
Bororo with black faces with white speck on it all the way down to the
collarbone, not to forget the Xavante, Canela, Rikbaksa, Javaé, Tapirapé.
The dances of the Kuikuro were something I always wanted to see and now I
had so many of them around me. They were Heavily built, a bit plump but
in their chants and their dances steps so different.
The Bororo with black faces with white specks on it
The Rikbaksa nation in the arena
They waggled their shoulders walking up and down the women clutching their arm and walking to and fro in pairs. Dull found me and led me to a Kuikuro chief, called Jakalo, to talk about Mariazinha. I could see a tear running down from Dulls right eye corner. He had told me yesterday how he got depressed whenever he heard about Mariazinha, and how she suffered. The Kuikuro were happy and smiling when I described Tukute´s attachment to my person. But the conversation was brief and Dull disappeared without a word.
The Karajá nation
left the Karajá and walked to the Arena. It was fortunately not raining
any longer. Many more nations prepared themselves queuing up. At the arena
noticed cameramen: Arte TV crew from France who had followed the Matís
and Enawené Nawé from their village to here. The young Pacificó,
Brazilian presenter, a famous man, was all but bad taste too me. It
sounded like I was watching a commercial or a soccer game that was being
announced. The guy certainly had been trained at TV Globo :
- Ladies and gentlemen watch now: here come the Teeeeeereeeeee
Look at their feathers, those colors, and they have brought their kids
Look at their feathers, those colors, and they have brought their kids too!!
nation had one microphone so they could enter singing but it was
overwhelmed by the presenter’s voice that didn’t give them enough time
to present themselves with their chant as he already announced another
people who were not even visible:
- And now the Guajaaaaaaaa! Only recently discovered and don’t speak Portuguese. Look at them how beautiful they are. No, we have the Guaraaaaniiii Kaiowaaaaaa, nearly extinct because of the many suicides!!
I thought, the young ones
commit suicide for the last 15 years, because of the invading urbanization and the many protestant
sects who turn their life into hell)
and it went on, despite my love for those people my stomach turned upside
down at the openly commercialization of culture turning it into an event
for the common people, of whom most have
no knowledge whatsoever of all these peoples.
And why did it have to be screaming loud, because the people are raised with Globo style entertainment? All indigenous participants finally filled up the whole arena and stood in columns and others took a seat at the tribune opposite from where I stood. At one point I saw Marcos Terena and I ran over to see him and tell him what I thought about the announcer. He said: I am guiding him. I decided to leave it to that and not bother after all I was a newcomer here and I didn’t want to make any enemies. It is just my concern on how these recently contacted Indians must feel in this multimedia event. Then everything became quiet and big wigs like the mayor and representatives of the government had their say, also a Pataxó woman who has led the battle for women’s rights in Brazil. It was said that Lula has also founded a new ministry for racial integration.
Marcos said through the microphone that Indians didn’t hate the Brazilians and that we should through these games try to get closer as human beings; Most of the visitors were leaving, no one had the patience to listen to long political speeches. Finally, I heard that some years ago an anthropologist had confirmed the existence of descendents of the Tupinambá, who were here represented by a few members. Unfortunately, they don’t speak their language any longer. They spoke Tupí, so, that’s what they are studying now from books written by Jesuits in those days.
too, I was too excited to sit or stand still. I quickly made for the other
side of the arena to meet the Bororo. Some of them recognized me. I met
with Paulo Bororo, the new chief of the village Garças, the traditional
village. He said the situation was worse than ever. FUNAI and the Salesian
missionaries paid no more interest in their village, half of the village
had left for another one near the city of Rondonópolis, Mato Grosso.
Another reason why they had left that village was because the Xavante have
taken over the Casa do Indio in Aragarças and left no space for the
Bororo wanted me to visit him again.
am going to found a new village where we will show dances for the whites
to see our culture. I want my people to be independent from the padres.
minutes later I found myself in the middle of different Indian groups
running in circles and dancing. At the extreme end of the right side of
the arena near the entrance stood a construction made of wood that looked
like a huge torch. The Xicrín climb up a ladder and ascended the fire of
the Olympic indigenous games. Then the Pataxó danced and the Terena and
Kayapó fired arrows over a huge fence from which symbolically arose
colors, the sky was dripping with dots and specks. All the Indians stood
in awe facing the artificial stars. Some were so impressed
they backed off because of the noise
and the smoke it produced. I wondered what impression it had left on
some groups like the Guajá or the Enawené Nawé. Firework has always
been used to scare Indians.
The Enawené Nawé
it turned into an apotheosis of dance, shouts, and chants. Soon the Terena
grabbed my arm and pulled me in amongst their dancing men. Of course I was
a not alone, other foreigners and Brazilians joined too. I had tears in my
eyes of bliss but also of sorrow, because I realized how much of these
people had been lost and with a rich culture over 500 years of genocide.
I had lost Laura and Dull and I went back to the hut where 4 groups were selling handicraft, but before that I had a stroll along the other huts and to my surprise I saw Pataxó Indians teaching Xicrín and Kayapó how to dance Forró (Brazilian popular dance) So, things were happening amongst themselves, not only did they exchanges ideas of indigenous culture but they also passed on Brazilian popular dance and music.
The Xicrín nation
the handicraft hut, a Xicrín woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked me
if she could paint my face for 2 reais. I let her do it, as she was
painting she was raising the price to 10. All of a sudden there was
a power cut, so we moved to the entrance and she continued the painting in
the moonlight. It started raining, I sweated by the humidity but she
continued. The light came back and we had a little struggle in defining
the price. I gave her 3 and told her to pay more after, she smiled, then I
drew her face on a piece of paper and gave it to her as a presente.
After that the Enawené Nawé offered me estojos (penis sheaths) made of palm leaves. First I thought it was a necklace, (there were many attached on a string). In a booklet published by Operação Anchieta (OPAN) on the Enawené Nawé I could see how they used it. But, no time to discuss, a car passed me by and I knew I had to take that one hitching a ride or I would have to stay here till next day.
The Xicrín nation
Porto Seguro, November 22, 2004. It has been pouring cats and dogs non-stop since the evening of the opening, until this morning. I woke up and saw how rain dripped through various points in the kitchen, bathroom and living room. As a result, I believe the games will not take place today, as the arena most probably has been turned into a mud bath. Poor Indians, the infrastructure is so bad, the first day there was not even water available in a distance of two km and now they are nearly drowning in it.
In the afternoon the torrential rain went on, streets were abandoned and shops closed; the Indians were relocated after their huts were flooded and the whole area had turned into a mess of sticky muddy roads. The chance that babies or children and old men would catch cold or flu was more than real. So, they were shifted in a hurry to the Centro de Convenções (Center of Conventions). Laura and I waited two days for the rain to stop which was coming down in buckets 24 on 24 hours.
made it to the center to the center with help from Heryka, Ducarmo’s
elder daughter (Dull’s car was broken). The Indians had passed one night
on the marble floor inside without blankets. The whole organization is a
mess, no one knows what will happen next and this is the 7 edition! The
public outside in the city of Porto Seguro knows nothing… this is Bahia,
I told you! Dull, thought it was after all still
positive, even if the audience wasn’t there at least the Indians met
with one another and could share information.
they did; I saw how the Pareci browsed through a magazine published by
CIMI on the ferocious brutality against Indians who were
demonstrating against the commemoration of the discovery of Brazil. That
was in the year 2000. The Enawené Nawé had never seen those images
neither heard of such an event. Nevertheless were they looking avidly at
the pictures? One young Pareci teenager told me:
- If I had been there I would have used my bow and arrow and shot down any policeman trying to stop us.
We are here and we are alive and not part of the past only, a slogan said somewhere on a picture.
Some Indians told me they would go back soon. During the rainfall I heard that maybe this would be the last games and the next only in 2006 so to prepare the games in a more professional way. Although they received funds from the federal and national government all things happen in which ever way, nothing seem planned. The Indians already complained. Paulo Bororo told me he was going to insist in better planning, but events are only defined through meetings late in the night.
Porto Seguro, November 23, 2004.
I was one day without electricity Emmanouel, Wéré'è
said to me, that’s why it took that
long to write, besides I got a little sick by cold, rain and humidity. Too
tired to catch up with the days in writing. Dull want to be my manager I
have the impression, but I know he talks a lot.
Seguro, November 24, 2004.Finally the sun broke through. Our first day
at the Centro de Convenções, Laura and I were left behind by Dull and
Heryka without a word, so we hung out there from 4.30 pm till 10.30 pm.
The Nambiquara and Pataxó gave another brilliant performance of dance and
chant for everyone to see and hear. The Fulni-ô nation was not invited,
probably because most of them are still at the Ouricuri ritual, but I met
one who had come on his own terms to make friendship with and buy from
other nations. When I spoke about Aristides and what he'd done he said: Ele
è doido mesmo
(he is crazy).
The Fulni-ô nation
I lamented that again I had forgotten to take my recorder with me. The Nambiquara were stunningly dressed in capim (wild cerrado grass as pasture for cattle) skirts, bore falcon feathers through their nose and lots of body paint. Arte TV from France was here as was a sports channel of France 2. The Indians were aware of this and proudly demonstrated their force and pride in the coming days. Peruvian descendants of Incas played the pan flute and I joined them singing impromptu; soon we had a whole crowd listening.
Porto Seguro, November 25, 2004. At night at the Centro the Convenções, I improvised John Lennon's 'Imagine' and instantly translated his lyrics into Portuguese. The Peruvian trio played the music: drum, guitar and (pan) flute. The crowd got the message and nodded in agreement. Yesterday, I had wanted to visit them somewhat earlier at 3 pm, because we thought the games wouldn’t start earlier. But by 14:45 a whole bus of Kayapó, Kuikuro, Yawalapiti, Xicrín, Terena came down to the center of the city for shopping. The volunteers had no control. The citizens didn’t believe their eyes as they saw some women and men painted browsing their shops for shoes or bags, dresses and so on. Kayapó summoned me to by ice cream and cold drinks after I had taken the liberty to immortalize them on negative film. I had made friends with them already the day before.
the way back by coach, the Kayapó had heard me sing reggae (No woman no
cry) the day before at the Centro de Convenções, and now wanted to hear
me sing Madonna or Michael Jackson. I imitated one of his famous shrieks
and grip in his crotch and they went flat out, laughing their heads off. I
could never have imagined that this young generation knew anything of pop
music. They asked me how far I lived. At the other end of this ocean and
pointed through the window at the sea. They were curious and as I talked
about sharks and whales they got so interested they kept asking for more.
arrived at the Centro de Convenções where I heard that 3 groups of
different nations had performed challenges in arrow shooting on a wooden
fish. Also was performed the running with the Burutí log by Krahô,
Canela and Xavante. Security staff told some Bororo Indians to stop
playing soccer on the lawn. Paulo got upset and quarreled with them
telling them that they had to respect his people and that they had come
from afar. We are Indians of this land. One of the staff said he had
Indian blood too from his grandmother.
The Gavião hunting
that everyone knows that I am not a Brazilian, I get many of them asking
me for help:
handicraft please we are starving…
is so difficult for me to refuse. I am put up for free at Dull’s so that
gives me a financial breathing space and so here and there I buy small
things to help out, which I put at Dull’s shop to sell with virtually no
gain on the items.
the Centro I saw young Indians exercising arms wrestling. God, they are so
strong. The day before they were pulling rope made of straw. They really
enjoy this ‘competition’. Some wear t-shirts with a slogan on the back
saying: It is not winning which is important, but participating is.
yesterday I started sketching some faces; I have now requests for
portraits in Chinese ink in exchange for a necklace. The Guajá were
resting on their mattresses, which were handed out to all Indians. I
nearly snuggled myself at their feet and said off the sleeve:
I would like to
sketch these guys here.
I had said this a woman appeared saying:
You will not.
Not one picture or sketch.
was accompanying them, working for FUNAI.
Alright, I said,
I do respect this and I won’t draw them but I have a few questions
though: If FUNAI is so concerned about what may hurt them or acculturate
them or harm them, then why are they here, why have they been brought in
as a curiosity and amidst all this jungle of noise?
admitted that FUNAI had some strange rules and prohibitions, which in
practice seem to be very contradictory, not to say the least. The
Guajá Indians only recently discovered are 4 very young men; the youngest
is 16-. I fear they may all catch flu or cold, as they are not in their
At lunch time I met with Carlos Terena- his brother Marcos passed me by several times but rarely had the time to chat with me. Carlos told me that we must give the people time to accept the Indians here. We play it Rede Globo way because that's how we can catch their attention. Had we just let the Indians sing or announced it in an Indian way (imitates a slow speaking Indian), than no one would have stayed watching. This Pacifico is a young presenter and has still to learn his trade, he's only done rodeos and knows nothing else, by the way he does it for free. He said he liked my critics and certainly would study them for the future events.
The Peruvian Indians told me they were chased away from their spot by the Terena Indians who didn't want them near as they were not considered Indians. They should evolve, these people, one of the Peruvians told me. They cannot stay and live like primitives. They have no idea who Incas are and we are descendants of them. The Peruvians were very kind tome, offered me lunch and dinner with their tickets. They had been invited guests by Marcos Terena, their flight and everything was paid for. But their interest in the cultures surrounding them at the Cwentro was zero. They stayed on their own and came here clearly to use this event as a way to get into Brazil and earn money here in the cities after the Games are over.
Preta (gallery owner who chucked me out) between two Tapirapi women
the president didn’t show up, though the indigenous leader Marcos Terena
had sent him an invitation. Gilberto Gil, famous singer and minister of
culture sent only a representative. It seemed they must have thought that
Indians will be ok and happy just with a simple straw hut and don’t need
anything else. Some speak barely Portuguese and have no interpreter. Porto
Seguro is known throughout history for its not liking of Indians. This is
the place where Tupiniquim and other nations received the Portuguese
invaders with open hands but it was also the place of crime 2002 when in
commemoration of the 5th century discovery, all nations gathered there to
demonstrate against the commemoration, were brutally attacked with tear
gas by the troops of shock sent in by this government of Bahia.
Alann with an orphanage
of the Peruvians was reading the Portuguese edition of Bury my heart at
Wounded Knee. The Matís asked me again about Dull's intentions to buy
Last night I was at the stadion in the center of Porto to watch a soccer
game between the Wayana Indians from French Guyana and a selected team of
the 53 other nations. The Wayana had short hair and lots of money I heard
they won. I got bored with soccer. Next to me sat Kuraitine, a 42-year-old
Enawené Nawé, not a handsome man but strong muscles everywhere on his
body and with a heart of cake. A Xavante sat at the other side. Short hair
and a metal plug in his ear.
do you wear this instead of a wooden plug? I
I am a modern Xavante,
he said. I
am an artist too;
- I know you did many portraits in São Marcos in 1991. So, will you sketch
you do mine.
I did. He had full lips and a feminine look about him, which resulted in
don’t want this picture I look like a woman.
friend was wearing a reggae cap with phoney dreadlocks. I could have sworn
he was a black Brazilian. Sporting the latest jeans fashion and a cellular
phone attached to his pocket, he was a far cry from the poor uneducated
Xavante from Parabubure. Kuraitine pulled my sleeve and so we went for a
walk into the center, on the way through the tribune we picked up a
Nambiquara curandeiro, who had a feather through his nose.
It was already 9 pm and when we arrived at the Passarela de Álcool it was teeming with stalls selling cakes, and handicraft of all sorts imaginable. But neither of them wished to hang out a lot. They saw what they had to see. Kuraitine was bare foot with one leg and had asked me to buy him a new pair of flip-flops, known as Hawainas here. I said I would in exchange of handicraft. Laura and I guided them back on foot to the stadion where we left them and went to sleep at Dull’s.
Seguro, November 26, 2004.
I met the Enawené Nawé shopping in a fishing store.
me this fishing line,
he nearly stammered. Only
was reluctant but he insisted with a friend so much. Again I said I would
against some handicraft. He agreed. He also wanted flip-flops for his
9-year-old daughter, something he had asked me the day before yesterday at
the stadium. In return he had given me 2 special necklaces of tucum wood,
one with feathers and a capybara tooth and one plain with some small
coconut shells dangling from it. Now I had to explain that it was either
fishing line or flip-flops for his daughter. Thereafter, I proceeded to
the bus stop to get to the arena.
traveled early at 9 am by public transport to Cabralião, which lies in
the Jaqueira reservation - National Park. Yesterday, I had taken the same
bus ride and met Paulo Bororo on the same ride. I had asked him
why he cut his hair short.
have nothing to do anymore with the Bororo of Garças village, they are
all cachaça (cheap rum made of sugar cane) addicts. I am going to start a
new village, a new tribe, called the Sons of the Bororo.
Cabralião is where the games take place. There was no one. A lonely stretch of road led me to the place where I had arrived the first evening with Dull. The arena stood empty. Though yesterday, after the games had ended, I heard someone say they would start here at 9 am. Nothing of the sort was going to happen at this time of the day. 3 pm, after the Indians had taken their lunch and had rested and painted themselves, would be the right time. So, I went back to the main road on foot and came across the Fulni-ô and his Brazilian girlfriend. We flagged down a bus that came from Coroa Vermelha, the place where the Pataxó live and where the best beaches are.
far I haven’t had time to curtir a praia (court the beach), as
Brazilians would express it. The games would only start at 3 pm for sure.
At three sharp I was back on the same spot. Lots of people, a gorgeous
Black Pataxó Indian was the star of all, as he had to pose with
middle-aged and young women and the occasional tourist. He looked more
like a Mandingo than an Indian and had light green eyes. He was handsome,
sexy and sensuous; probably he didn’t even realize it as he stood casual
like a statue in the middle of the women who wanted to take his picture
home. A student journalist took shots of my necklaces and that I was
wearing, for a study on handicraft at the Catholic University of Goiânia.
Pataxó Indian with his pipe
Another guy called me Indiana Jones. I took my turn and shot a few pictures of young Pataxó, basically killing time, because the Indians did not arrive at 3 pm as planned. I learned, when they arrived at 5 pm, that they ate late and that the painting of their bodies took like 2 hours.
last, the games started: O cabo de ferro (the cable of iron) was the name
of the game for pulling a rope between two nations. Various competitions:
the Xavante lost from the Tapirapé, the Kuikuro against the Enawené Nawé,
who won. It was amazing to see how they liked these tour de force
games. I missed out on many games such as the Burutí log race, and day
before the canoeing and arrow shooting, due to lack of information and
confusion. No one knew anything right. But, I didn’t miss the Matís who
walked into the arena, faces and shoulders dyed in urucúm. I met
with their anthropologist who took a picture of me. I asked him why.
he said so they will have a souvenir of you.
I don’t know whether I should believe that. My face still bore the Xicrín design; maybe he was interested in that? The Matís ended up showing off their skill in shooting their dangerous curare dipped darts into a white ball, which was suspended in the middle of the arena. Everyone had to leave the arena to be sure no one would get hurt. In the evening, I went back with the Xavante to the Centro.
I sat in the bus a young woman told me she recognized me from 145 years
heard your name she
said, just now and I do
know your face. How nice to see you again.
was Adriana, daughter of Abrão, who sat there on the first chair. At the
center, I called him and said:
rowèndi? (How are
We chatted a bit of small talk in my basic Xavante, though he probably knew very well Portuguese he went on in Xavante tongue. In the bus I had spoken exchanged a few Xavante words and sentences with his daughter and now she told him how extraordinary it was to find out I had learned a great deal of expressions and words since that time in 1989. Abrão asked me why I hadn’t visited this time his village. I told him Josué had told me to stay only in Santa Cruz as too many politics had destroyed the good relationship with his neighbors. He then asked me to buy a basket from him for 10 reais to help him out. I had to decline, because, I had no use for this item and I needed to save my money for more important things. But, maybe it was a strategic mistake, as it could have been a diplomatic gesture of goodwill to make peace after all those years. I told him we would meet again, but we didn’t.
days earlier at the canteen in the Centro de Convenções, I had met with
my enemy number one: Samuel, his son - the one who had vowed to kill
me. Now extremely old for his age, he must be my age but he has more
wrinkles and looks worn out. He was very mild with. He asked me to
forget the past,
was all politics and confusion and jealousy organized by Josué,
never wanted to kill you, Wéré’è.
I remember clearly that moment, that year, when you told me straight in
the face: You
will never come back here.
Watching the soccer games against Guiana Indians
denied these allegations with a defendant’s face. He even invited me to
his village of Lagoinha, to witness the piercing of the earlobes in May of
next year. That may be another reason why Josué’s brother-in-law,
Messias didn’t talk much, because I was making friends with their
rivals; Samuel and Abrão are from the opposite clan and protestants and
looking for help too. He allowed me to take his picture, though he
was looking away from the lens. One passer-by Xavante shouted:
- Put a smile on your face Samuel, and so he did.
now most of the Indians know me as the singer or the portrait artist:
will you draw my face tonight? Instead of drawing I got drawn to the
sounds of chanting in the far right corner of the centro. I grabbed my
Walkman for recording. It was the Krahô doing a round dance. The cacique
in the middle rattling the Maracá adding his hoarse voice to the sound;
he had something young and energetic as he moved along in circles with the
youngsters dancing in circles around him. There was a metal plank on the
floor on which every dancer enjoyed stamping as they moved on. The
spectators were Karajá, Kuikuro, Kayapó.
you like it a bit,
a shaman of the Krahô asked me.
I nodded. He smiled and was happy I did. Then Laura came to get some 60 reais of me.
Enawené Nawé want to leave and have no money, can I borrow from you,
they want to leave earlier as the girl gets sick. It’s a long journey
of 5 days to Juina. But, they have earned a lot with their handicraft, I
argument. I promised them,
Parecí with a view from a bus window
go a Enawené Nawé pan flute in return for the fishing line, and most
of them were handing out what they had to other Indians, one stood on a
chair while other Indians grabbed for the blankets and arrows they gave
away. They were so sure to go back earlier. Some of them still tried to
seduce me to buy more handicraft, they were even selling pure honey for about
7 euro a 1 liter bottle. The Funai lady who accompanied the Guajá told
me that they were so innocent when they participated the first time
two years ago.
year my colleague was in for a shock, she
Parecí body paint
of them invited her into their hut at the games. Inside he asked
her to take a picture of him, when she did, he showed his index
finger and thumb together and asked money for it. We had to explain that
this was impossible, besides we were FUNAI workers and guiding them.
They have become capitalists. I don’t know what OPAN has taught them,
I do know they are increasingly visiting the nearest city of Juina more
than ever. They wanted Laura in but not me. Laura nearly
embarrassed the cacique, as he was going to show her some pictures of
himself, saw two condoms in his wallet. He nearly blushed,
but she reassured him that it was ok and better to be with than without
them; he then smiled at her, Laura had told me.
Cabo de ferro between Karajá and Kuikuro
In the end it was getting too late for us, I wanted to stay to sleep at least one night with all the Indians, but s it got dark and most of them got to sleep, I thought it was of no use. Besides I had no camera with me and had to buy more film and I needed a bath. We got a ride with an OPAN member. As we left, Laura told me that despite the 70 reais she gave to her beloved Enawené Nawé, they would not go, as no bus would drive for them. The Opan (Operação Anchieta) member talked fluent their language. He told them to wait until tomorrow and he and his wife were tired too and couldn’t take the stress any longer.
On the way to Dull I asked a few questions as to why so few people were allowed in at their reservation. He was short in answering and avoided diplomatically the more difficult questions on what precisely OPAN is seeking to achieve or doing there. Laura was answered in a similar way she told me. She is totally nuts about them and wants to visit them. The cacique that is very fond - an understatement - of her invited her. But she needs to get authorization from FUNAI first. And for a nation like them it will not be a piece of cake. OPAN is known for letting no one into their projects.
Seguro, November 27, 2004.
was very edgy, thinking of going to the Centro, when Dull decided to go and
see the Matís to buy their zarabatanas (blow guns with curare). The Matís
had asked me 3 times when he would show up and I felt they were thinking I
was working with him or was doing business too. Dull told me he would go
only at the last day to see them but asked me to bargain a good deal with
them. The Matís had let me know that they could not wait that long because
they would ultimately lose potential customers if he didn’t buy of them.
Dull, though, is a born businessman and lays it cool.
He told me the Matís were lying and that he didn’t care for their lies. That shocked me as much as when I saw him bartering the first night with the Enawené Nawé.
A lot of fun at the games
was relieved when I found out he taken the decision to go and meet them at
the Center de Convenções. As we reached the center of Porto I saw a
bus with Parecí Indians. Some of them had gotten out to eat ice cream.
Amongst them were 4 Avá Canoeira. The wooden discs in their earlobes were
the size of coffee dish. The Parecí looked stunning in their sky
blue swimming trunks over which they wore cotton woven loin cloths, they
were the only people who wore yellow head scarves saying: Parecí.
Parecí Indian with her children
Then, as I got into a conversation a bus with Kayapó drove past us. So, I presumed that there was no going on at the Centro de Convenções like the day before yesterday. Dull had taken his money out of the bank, I hoped in the bus with the Pareci and he with Laura made for the centro de Convenções. It was relaxed and cool with the Parecí youngsters, a softer-spoken people than The Kayapó.
there any dry land over there beyond the water? One
teenager asked me while we skirted the beach.
Many questions and healthy curiosity; they wanted to know whether I was a journalist and for how much I sold their pictures. Everyone was there at the arena, good vibes in the air. The Guajá apparently had left before. I heard from Laura, who is deeply involved with one of them that the cacique’s daughter is ill and they want to leave as soon as possible since yesterday. But neither FUNAI, neither the organizing bodies have found ways to evacuate them. Another proof of how bad things can get. With all these tourists who are carriers of any strange flu, alien to recent contacted peoples such as they and the Guajá, imagine what could happen to them. Irresponsibility of FUNAI
I met with so many today and took my best shots, unfortunately a lot of Xavante and Krahô had no more urucúm dye, so they showed up- the latter- in plain T-shirts and bermudas. The Guajá were gone yesterday. Laura had managed to collect used and new clothes from shops and distributed them. I had indicated which ones needed most.
The Bororo counted on me, but the women I knew couldn’t agree and fought over which piece would go to whom? Laura was very disappointed that she did not even get a smile or a thank you. I told her she had to be patient and that a thank you in these cultures don’t exist. She must learn a lot still before she goes into a reservation, if ever. I went through these years ago and still learn from it everyday. I told her about the water works I did and how the Xavante youngsters were not grateful but only told me that I was bad because I hadn’t brought gifts or biscuits this time.
Kayapó chief from the village of Gorotire
I tried to recuperate shots I should have had on the opening. Karaja, Krahô, terena, Bororo, Kayapó, and many more; God, how many will remember me and recognize me in 10 years from here. The biggest fun I had was with Tuku-I, the Kayapó who convinced his cacique to sign an invitation that he wrote for me. A few days ago, I sat at the table with them in the canteen with one Peruvian. I told them about the Incas, they never heard of. The Peruvian spoke a few Quechua phrases, then it went on to politics in the world. What is the most expensive country? I said: Japan and explained them how hotels worked there and what they offered and how expensive a coffee. About what they did during the Second World War and how they chopped of heads.
Kayapó Indians playing soccer in the Indigenous games
The waggled their heads in dismay. They knew about Korea, and then they quickly talked amongst themselves about the Japanese and Chinese. I had to give so many details and descriptions of those Asian Tigers and explain the threat North Korea is to the world. They seemed very impressed and afraid as how little control they had from their village to what can happen to them and the world. Just the thought of how small their world had become, which I could read in their eyes, made them visibly less reassured of their might as a warriors nation, which they are.
Kayapó entry to the arena for their presentation of Kayapó soccer
One week was not enough to make friendship with 53 nations profoundly. One has to choose the first day with who to spent time. I like the Wai-Wai who were very laid back but are wonderful artisans. The Matís, all looked alike in features as if they came from the same family, so did the Enawené Nawé, who have gone back earlier as did the Guajá- the latter were not present at the celebration and ending of the games, which ended with archers - Two or three Xavante and another of a different nation, shooting arrows over the fence which was the sign to release the fireworks.
Before the fireworks a huge fire was made at the center and danced around by the Parecí all dressed in blue swimming trunks. The Kayapó then ceremonially danced around it and slowly encircled it upon which they shoveled sand on the fire with their feet extinguishing thus the fire and the games symbolically. It was also a Kayapó woman who lit the torch again just before that.
The Kayapó nation participation in the Indigenous Games
My last hitch home was with Laura and her boyfriend Alex in a Wai Wai bus. Everyone was tired. The ending had set in with the African Bahian culture walking into the arena. Four black women in white dresses and flags of Bahia and Africa were to fraternize with the Kayapó and Parecí, who were waiting in the center of the arena. Alas, then the rain set in for a few minutes. That was the sign for most of us to leave the tribune in a hurry and run for cover.
I thought I should have gone with the Xavante again as I drove past their bus. But, it was too late. This was the end, a very melancholic end to me. I was sad to see them go. People I will never see again, I regretted to have ignored the Wai Wai, because they have very artistic handicraft and they are very softhearted and friendly. Laura, Alex and I were dropped of at the bus station of Porto and walked back a kilometer to ´our home´.
Wéré'è and the Matís Indians in the arena of Indigenous Olympic Games that took place in Porto Seguro in 2004
Though sales of animal items like jaguar skins and feathers or the the jawbone of a monkey on a Matís zarabatana, are outlawed for sales, I heard that many people merchants from São Paulo and other cities have bought nearly everything from the Indians for peanuts. How is this possible?
Porto Seguro, November 28, 2004. The games are over since yesterday at 8 pm. It was exhilarating; I concluded it personally by joining the Xavante in a friendship dance, which was joined by many other whites and a few Pataxó Indians. Messias, Josué’s brother-in-law didn’t look at me once. It may be that he didn’t like the fact that I was hanging around with many other tribes and that I wore their necklaces too.
was a Xavante of every village from various reservations and so it went for
the other 53 nations who were invited. I hitched rides going to the arena
and going back either with them to the Centro de Convenções or to the
center of Porto Seguro. The day before yesterday I sat in the Xavante bus
and the music tape in the bus was Xavante Sertaneja (country).
made friendship with the Kayapó from the village of Gorotire in the Kayapó
reservation near the city of Redenção in the State of Pará. I have an
official invitation written in Kayapó. My friend Tuku-i told me I
could come and witness their culture and document it.
tomorrow onwards I start painting for a gallery, that is extremely impressed
with my art. I wish I had more
money, so I could have bought wonderful pieces of handicraft straight from
the Indians; some really needed those sales for their survival. I will never
get a chance to buy that material again. The next games were planned for
April in Bertioga, a touristic center in the State of São Paulo, but I
heard also that they would be cancelled until 2006 and be held in Belèm,
State of Maranhão, so they get the time to organize better.
All contents copyright (c) 1999. All rights reserved - Return to Home page