"Festival de Legumes" ("Festival of Vegetables")

I’m with the Huni Kuin indigenous people [1] in their village at the River Jordão, Acre, Brasil. Today a sacred ritual is performed. It is called "Festival de Legumes" ("Vegetable Festival"). I am explained that the performance of this ritual serves for the support of the growing and harvesting of the vegetables that are needed in the village, such as corn, yam or cassava.

The ritual

All the villagers are dressed up with their typical costumes and are wearing their typical body paintings. The cacique [2] wears a headdress made of long white feathers from the harpya eagle and red feathers from the macaw parrots. In addition, the men have tied the leaves of the Urikuri palm [3] around their upper bodies and foreheads and are holding their shrubs in their hands. They form a queue and hold their shoulders. The queue is led by the pajés [4]. They start to sing and then dance to the central square of the village. There the women and children are waiting. As soon as the men reach the central village square they all form a large group together. They hold hands and dance in a circle while singing. At the end of the ritual the young men then sit down, make music and sing while the young girls are dancing around them. I watch this ritual curiously and admire how proudly they show their culture.

A little more about their culture

A little later I sit down with one of the villagers to learn more about their culture. He is happy and begins to tell: “500 years ago, before our first contact with the Europeans, the entire village community slept on the floor in a maloca [5]. Those days we lived even closer to nature than we do today. But after our contact with the Europeans we started to wear their clothes and to use pots and pans for cooking. We have also changed our diet. We now go less into the forest to hunt, but buy our food more frequently in the village Jordão [6]. Nevertheless, we try to maintain our closeness to nature as much as possible, because nature presents our God to us.” “But you were able to preserve a lot of your culture...”, I reply. "Yes, and we are very happy about that," he confirms. “We still speak our language, even though it has mixed a little with the Portuguese language. Now it is our wish to further strengthen our culture for the coming generations and thus to protect us, the forest and nature." 

[1] The Huni Kuin people are one of the most present indigenous peoples in Brazil. It lives on the border with Peru in the lower reaches of the Jordão River, in Acre, Brazil. The term "Huni Kuin" (Kaxinawá) means something like "homens verdadeiros" or "gente com costumes conhecidos" which means "real people" or "people with known customs" in translation. More detailed information about the Huni Kuin people can be found under the following link (in Portuguese): https://pib.socioambiental.org/pt/Povo:Huni_Kuin_(Kaxinawá)

[2] Cacique is called the political leader of an indigenous community.

[3] The Urikuri palm is a type of palm that grows in the Amazon rainforest. Their leaves are also used for the construction of the roofs of the malocas and for the handicrafts of the women and girls.

[5] Malocas are the traditional houses with thatched roofs of the indigenous peoples.

[6] A small community in the State of Acre in Brazil that is cut by the rivers Jordão and Tarauacá. More than two thousand native people of the Huni-Kuin ethnic group live here. The municipality that is located directly in the amazon rainforest has a total of 7000 inhabitants and is about 640 kilometers as the crow flies from the state capital Rio Branco. Without land access, Jordão can be reached either by a 3-day boat trip or a 2.5-hour flight by air taxi. See: https://www.agencia.ac.gov.br/jordo-uma-pequena-cidade-amaznica/

A video of this ritual can be found here: https://www.ingabacken.com/videos

For more photos please visit the photo galleries on my website: https://www.ingabacken.com/photo-gallery

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