Povo Mehinako

35min39

The Mehinako people. Utawana Village. Mato Grosso state. Population of less than 300 people

Povo Mehinako

35:39

The Mehinako people. Utawana Village. Mato Grosso state. Population of less than 300 people

Album

The Mehinako People

 

Three million hectares in the southern section of the Amazon forest and the northwestern section of Mato Grosso state: in 1961, a group formed by the Brazilian Federal Government, FUNAI (National Indian Foundation) and specialists decided… on that part of the map there would be a National park. But it wouldn’t be just any park, it would be the Xingu National Park: a nature reserve where Indians and nature could live in harmony, shielded from the sprawl of development across the country.

Among them are three hundred Aruak-speaking Indians residing in the Alto Xingu (Xingu highlands). Despite having lived by the banks of the Xingu River for some generations, they believe that their ancient communities prior to settling in the park, were their truly original ones: and each year they return there to pick pequi and make salt. Their language defines their identity when living amongst other ethnicities: they are Mehinako and like to clearly enunciate their words and ritualistic chants.

“We believe in our dreams,

We believe in nature”

Mayawari Mehinako

Among the rituals they experience or organize in the Alto Xingu, the Kwarup burial ceremony is one of the most important. The village or home leaders are buried in a special way: the body is tied to wood, as if on a ladder, and is buried upright in the grave hole; or two pits are dug, each with a post in it, and in a tunnel connecting these two posts a hammock is hung in which the body will be buried. In both cases, ceramic pans are placed to close the grave openings.

After the burial, one of the deceased’s relatives must accept an obligation to build a fence around the grave. When someone accepts this commitment, Kwarup starts; ending only during the August and September droughts in one of the most widely awaited festivities in Parque do Xingu, attracting tourists from other regions.

“As we prepare for the festivities, there can’t go a day without dancing.

The spirits rejoice”

Mayawari Mehinako

Saying yes to the invitation also means organizing the rite of passage and all food and beverage for the guests. While the fence is built, instruments made from pequi nut capsules play away. Long flutes – uruás – are blown almost daily as an offering, along with food, for the owners of Kwarup. Then, the sound of maracás takes over the atmosphere, an ambient sound connecting the spiritual worlds together.

A messenger sends the invitation out across as many of the neighboring areas as possible. In the preparations, gravediggers paint the bodies of the deceased relatives. In the heart of the hosting village there is a Kwarup wood log standing more than six-feet tall for each honored dead. Emerging side by side, they are adorned: the more important the passing person is, the more diligence and sophistication goes into their tree log.

“This ritual takes place in honor of one of our elders who passed away last year,

Right now, her soul is with us, it’s happy and it follows us,

Once the party comes to an end, she will return to the skies”

Mayawari Mehinako

The fence around the grave comes down and, at nighttime, bonfires burn for each honored log. When daytime comes, they all become jaguars roaring in a fighting ritual known as huka-huka.

Aside from fences, food and rituals, it is also a part of the ritual to leave a pubescent young woman in reclusion: with pale skin from not seeing the light of day for months on end, very long hair and bangs. She appears by the end of the festivity offering pequi seeds to the leaders of guest villages.

More food is offered to visitors, more young women come out from reclusion and start circling through the village. From death to life: respect and fertility mark the rites of passage on a land of so many peoples.

interview

Mayawari Mehinako

07min40

interview

Mayawari Mehinako

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Shaman Tukuyari

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Rehearsals for Kwarup

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Rehearsals for Kwarup

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