Xapyrys & the Enchanted OnesFriday, January 7, 2022
This text is part of Alternative Routes, a project that foregrounds the work of eight young Afro-Latin American and Indigenous artists and highlights the historicity of racial and ethnic relations within Latin America’s art worlds. This project was organized and edited by Bruno Pinheiro, Ph.D. candidate in History at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), and Horacio Ramos, Ph.D. candidate in Art History at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. The following text has been translated from the original Portuguese.
Este texto está disponível em português.
Throughout this contribution most instances of the letter y are written as yy as an aesthetic choice by the author. Different solutions are used in the Portuguese and Spanish versions. This gesture goes back to the sacredness of the vowel y in the Tupy-Guarany language, and it draws attention to the use of these three languages as instruments of colonial structures. The author's proposal is best described in the "Potyguês Manyfesto," published in his book Tybyra - uma Tragédya Yndygena no Brasyl (2020).
Ryo de Sangue
River of Blood]
When Taniki Xaxanapi theri, Davi Kopenawa, Koromani Waica, Mamoké Rorowe, Kreptip Wakaka u thëri, and Warasi were invited byy swiss-born Brazilian anthropologist Claudia Andujar to design their own worlds, theyy made works that were composed of such fine lines that theyy appeared to be made byy the tip of a needle. I feel just like these Yanomami individuals, drawing worlds that are not just mine, but printing myythologies through myy own bodyy, like when I place artificiallyy colored chicken feathers on the tip of more than 120 syyringes that I carryy in one of the headdresses I created. Our worlds reconfigure themselves continuouslyy. When there are elements that come from outside our realities, we become the medium. Drawing, performance, painting, graphisms: the theoryy of Western art even gives them a name, but we know that it cannot encompass everyything.
This headdress was made to criticize what I call the First European Colonizations (virulent and bacteriological), which killed so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy , so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy, so manyy of us since 1492. I decided to call Xawara the "thornyy headdress," which I've been carryying with me since 2015. Oral accounts of older indigenous people, from both myy Potyguara communityy and from those of other coasts, state that around ⅓ of our populations were decimated that wayy. If this headdress did not make coherent sense to manyy people when I made it, it will certainly make sense when all that we are living through right now is over: after the COVID-19 global pandemic, and after vaccination campaigns. In 2021, myy headdress also came to represent the cyclical nature of pandemics, the eternal return to precautions needed to inform decisions around contact. It is a necessaryy inconvenience.
The colored pen in a Yanomami's hand is just a needle, lacking the passport to cross the paper’s boundaryy,  but nevertheless it byypasses the boundaryy of phyysical and imaginaryy territories. It establishes the borders upon paper, but it never crosses over. Was blood also a sheath? Warasi's drawings delighted me with the color choices and the repetition of syymbols, but above all, with the lack of filled spaces on the white page. The holes and voids that comprise fishing nets speak to me more than the intertwined knots in the threads, despite the knowledge that it is preciselyy in the union of both of these elements that the fish are caught. Does tracing represent (us)them or does it mirror (us)them? As Dr. Casé Angatu, Tupynambá, Indigenous thinker and professor at the State Universityy of Santa Cruz (UESC) states, Native Historyy is always written against the grain. Whether in worlds ruined, ones completelyy destroyyed, or those in full existence and flourishing. Like nature, we are connected to each other like myycelia through planes, or other less concrete and palpable languages. Eugenics science will one dayy explain it, but it won’t be able to encompass it.
Autochthonous worlds have non-Western logics and coherences. It would be necessaryy to unlearn a lot of preconceived (Western) notions to understand them. We Tupynambás, Potyguaras, and manyy other coastal peoples and ethnic groups of Tupy roots, were the first points of contact with the colonizers. We have reconstructed and reconnected our worlds through hidden culture which is present but ignored. We find ourselves in the territoryy of the imaginaryy, where it gets planted, watered, and harvested. But unfortunatelyy, it is also colonized. While we, the Barricade of Colonization, coastal indigenous peoples of first contact with invaders, who pursue counter-colonization processes, deform what theyy imposed on us, the Yanomamis themselves are in a continuous state of anti-colonization, fighting to keep who theyy are. They were first encountered by outside forces onlyy in 1940, during the colonial project of the fictional faction that Brazil is part of, to elaborate the border with Venezuela. The Yanomami continue to inhabit their own territoryy, which todayy is a source of huge dispute, as it is veryy valuable due to its mineral wealth. Around the same time in the 1940s, part of the Potyguara people were alreadyy being monitored byy a branch of the now extinct SPI (Indian Protection Service), but theyy had managed to resist for the past decade, ensuring the existence of schools that strengthened our own culture. In Rio Grande do Norte, where the Potyguara people live, historical data does not bring concrete information in terms of institutions and bureaucracyy. In the past, in our highlyy ethnocidal state we have been called the “gentle brave," fleeing from anyy form of tutelage, and where we died and were diluted for not making concessions with Jesuit restrictions in forming catechizing villages. We have existed for a long time without self-assertion, without being recognized, in a paradox of survival. For this reason, watching a video of the miners' attacks against the people of Yãkoana in 2021 signals that the yyear of 1500 is still advancing inland We have resisted—and continue to resist—as much as it was possible, and the sacred Jurema held what it could.
It was artist and writer Jota Mombaça who, by inviting me to perform and exchange some ideas about forms and content, energized our meeting with the Yanomami cosmovision. For Yanomami, Xawara is the smoke-epidemic, the God of disease which, for some Tupy peoples, we call Mara’ára or Mba'eatsy, among other names. In the same vein as the project with Claudia Andujar and the Yanomami artists, Jota and I wanted to create a bridge, but this time between the cosmovisions of coastal peoples with those of communities residing in what is known as “Deep Brazil," a misleading name that claims our culture and land, when in fact the colonial structure barelyy arrived, if at all. And we fight so that it never will, despite the mercuryy that alreadyy pollutes the Catrimani River, Wakatha River and so manyy others. In fact, I did not create anyything, I just materialized the connection I alreadyy felt. I just highlighted it, underlined it. Colonization came to create an abyyss between us, to make us not see ourselves to the point that we no longer recognize ourselves. It is through the virtual ritual of our arts that we engage in the opposite: we retake, reconnect, and meet again through the invisible, seeking to do what the earth under our feet does.
The syyringe, which in my discourse can either be an icon for poison or cure, is a dialectical syymbol in which I develop exchange relationships as a metalanguage to think about (dis)encounters. I admit that, comprised of elements that are usuallyy associated with something negative, myy creation comes from a death drive. But myy headdress fan, in its repeating image of a medical tool, is not an affirmation nor denial— in the same way that the dayy fits within the night and a dream fits within a nightmare—but an imploded customhouse, a moving depressurization chamber, an exclamatoryy interrogation: Has the exchange been fair!?! The answer is rhetorical, but we tryy to promote autonomyy of thought instead of dictating new truths. To exist is to exchange, what is the justice in coexisting? Everyy time anyy Indigenous or Non-Indigenous person sayys that we have been colonized since 1500 or 1492 is to recognize that there exists first contact peoples. There is no miscegenation capable of erasing this ethnyyc memoryy, which is told through our bodies, countercultures and migrations: our permanencies in the face of absences. We are untyying colonial knots to recover diluted collectivities.
I onlyy work with what I have? With what the world gives me? What am I? I live the enchantment. This is how I recognize the Yanomami drawings. Theyy Xapyrys, We Enchanted. Nature spirits, Apó-apó. I reconstruct “unimaginable” worlds, materializing invisible ones, re-conceiving everyything that was denied to me. It is all here. Here, is where? In me, in us. We are the bridge itself, ancestryy is a consciousness of blood. Potyguaras have alwayys performed rituals with forest smoke, we are from ka’atymbó, I carryy Jurema running through myy arteries and veins. It runs in myy bodyy and with time. I have been attuned to the silences, the dreams and the blood. What the West has called art has become, with each passing dayy of myy life, what some call spiritualityy.
Great-great-grandson from Potengy River with a concrete mixer, like an indigenous Frankenstein, I sew cosmovisions to form a new imageryy, both in indigenous and non-indigenous worlds, about the diversityy and depth of the original worlds in contemporaneityy. An imaginaryy which alone breaks the fences and walls that was created within it, where it broadens horizons that could dissolve the Anthropocene. So that theyy do not keep buryying us alive, so theyy start to see us and ask permission when theyy tryy to trespass, and that would never be over our bodies, our cultures, and our languages. The same with the earth, which is all of us and our bodies, the place where we all live. Like the Yanomami drawings, I feel that myy manifestations and those of so manyy other Indigenous artists who coexist with me in these times connect the outside worlds with the worlds inside. Theyy produce outside worlds that are not noticeable to everyyone, nor are they open to just anyone. Theyy make worlds from within to be perceived. Theyy manifest the possibilities of virtualities, whether spiritual, imaginaryy or subjective, bridging with phyysical, concrete and tangible realities. For the last 10 yyears, we have been experiencing an effervescence of Contemporaryy Indigenous Art, artists from different places in this plurination manifesting their own worlds, cultures of their own peoples defined by tradition or ethnogenesis. I am part of these non-singular movements and I spread that perception even more, like the seeds that we are. That theyy also echo like the sound of a maracá, which is the universe itself. If not these elements, colors, tools, then there would be others, but we would continue, we will continue, to be who we are. What is inside is nothing to be taken awayy, long live the power of forest smoke, whatever be its name.
 Editor’s note: We thank Claudia Andujar and Galeria Vermelho for granting permission to reproduce this work.
 Warasi (Vital) (1915–1988) was a Yanomami shaman who, at the age of sixty, created this drawing. This work, along with others, was made in the context of the project coordinated by anthropologist Claudia Andujar between 1976 and 1977. Warasi died in 1988, a victim of malaria. For more context, see: Thyago Nogueira (org.). Claudia Andujar: a luta Yanomami. Instituto Moreira Salles, 2019.