Ora, o SENHOR disse a Abrão: Sai-te da tua terra, da tua parentela e da casa de teu pai, para a terra que eu te mostrarei.
E far-te-ei uma grande nação, e abençoar-te-ei e engrandecerei o teu nome; e tu serás uma bênção.
E abençoarei os que te abençoarem, e amaldiçoarei os que te amaldiçoarem; e em ti serão benditas todas as famílias da terra.
BRAZIL, 2019 - ON PROGRESS
Immemorial inhabitants of Juruena river basin in the state of Mato Grosso in Brazil, Rikbaktsa people remained unknown to non-indigenous Brazilians’ until half of 20th century, when Brazilian government and rubber tappers from America and Europe invaded indigenous territories at the Amazon Basin, interested in rubber extraction, industrial processing and related activities.
The Rikbaktsa were seen as fierce warriors by other indigenous groups as they have been in war with all neighboring ethnicities such as Cinta Larga and Pareci. Latex companies decided to pay ex-prisoners from the region to work as rubber tappers and oriented them to kill indigenous ‘if necessary’. Many bloody encounters happened when the Rikbaktsa were in the jungle looking for animals to hunt and feathers to make their adornments.
In an attempt to make things 'easier', rubber tappers financed Catholic missionaries to enter Rikbaktsa’s lands in 1957 and 'pacify' them, which lead to a depopulation process that resulted in the extermination of 75% of their people due to diseases such as influenza and chicken pox.
The photos shown in this essay were taken during many trips to Rikbaktsa lands in 2019, commissioned by an NGO which support the Rikabtksa and wanted to document their way of life as well as how they use art in a way to preserve their culture.
I kept contact with many families which have told me that now, during the pandemic, the Rikbaktsa closed their territory, not allowing non-indigenous to enter and expose the to the virus. Helena, a Rikabtksa elder, told me: “Last year, people were burning the forest, the lungs of the Earth. Now a disease affects people's lungs. Now people facing what indigenous peoples faced in the past: how to deal with a disease they've never seen before."
Headdresses, bracelets, necklaces ... Rikbaktsa adornments are rich in beauty and meaning.
Before being contacted by non-indigenous people, Rikbaktsa people had a ritual of passage into adulthood where boys would have their earlobers and noses pierced so they could wear adornments that indicated their were no longer boys, but men.This tradition in increasingly disappearing. A man showhis nose pierced with a special perfume made with macaw feathers, as you can see in the gallery below, which also shows the handmade work of seeds, chestnuts, bones and feathers used by women.
First contact with non-indigenous people was made in 1957 and culminated in disseminations if diseases and cultural losses forced by the jesuitic missions. Female facial 'tattoo', a practice where girls had their faces marked by their parents,is almost extinct. Only a few women still carry these marks on their faces, as Helena, an elder that old me how she had her faces marked when she was around ten years old.