With the cariçu, a kind of flute, in their hands, a group of indigenous people begin to enchant those who pass through the corridors of one of the rooms at the Museum of the Portuguese Language, in the capital of São Paulo. To the sound of this instrument, they dance and tour the new exhibition on display at the museum, all dedicated to the more than 175 indigenous languages that are still spoken in Brazil.
Nhe’ẽ Porã: Memory and Transformation opens on Wednesday (12), a national holiday, and runs until April 23. Curated by the indigenous artist, activist, educator and communicator Daiara Tukano, the exhibition proposes an immersion in the dozens of language families to which the languages spoken today by the indigenous peoples of Brazil belong.
The exhibition also marks the launch in Brazil of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032), established by the United Nations (UN) and coordinated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) throughout the world.
swinging the maraca [uma espécie de chocalho]Daiara begins to sing the words of the Guarani Mbya language that give the exhibition its name: Nhe’ẽ, Nhe’ẽ, Nhe’ẽ Porã. She then explains that the name means “good words, good thoughts, good feelings, sweet words that come from the heart to touch every person’s heart.”
“I would like to salute the more than 5,000 indigenous peoples around the world, whose territories protect more than 80% of our planet’s biodiversity. Talking about indigenous peoples and indigenous languages is talking about life, talking about diversity and the wisdom of walking through this world with respect for everything in rivers, forests, mountains and seas”, said Daiara, when presenting the exhibition to journalists. .
Daiara recalled that the world is currently experiencing the greatest mass extinction, caused by major climate changes. “It is the indigenous peoples who have always been at the forefront in the defense of all this life. We are not only talking about the beauty of languages, but also inviting all of us to look at each tree, to bathe in the river, to drink pure water, to appreciate each story. Each language is a universe of wisdom, a philosophy of life, an infinite knowledge”, highlighted the curator.
It is not just beautiful words that illustrate the exhibition. Sounds, photographs, videos and indigenous objects – including works by Denilson Baniwa, Jaider Esbell and Paulo Desana – are presented here to tell the story of these peoples, showing their identity and culture, memories and trajectories of struggle and resistance.
The exposition has a circular logic, no matter where the beginning or end is. In one of these spaces, there is a forest of indigenous languages, where the visitor can get to know the sound of each one.
Next to it is the Language and Memory space, which portrays the history of contact, violence and conflict resulting from the invasion of indigenous territories. It is there that the monumental Trocano is found, a drum made of a wooden log, which, during the visit, was played by the indigenous people who participated in the opening session of the exhibition.
“It’s the first time I’m coming [ao Museu da Língua Portuguesa]. I’m delighted. I helped with the organization process, but I had not seen how it turned out, and it is exciting to have indigenous languages here as a recognized and privileged space within the museum”, said Altaci Corrêa Rubim, representative of indigenous peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean at the UNESCO WG and professor at the University of Brazilia.
Altaci is from the Kokama people, who live in Alto Solimões, in Amazonas. “With this, we want to give visibility to the cultural and linguistic diversity of indigenous peoples in Brazil. May everyone have another look at indigenous peoples”, she said, in an interview with Agência Brazil.
According to Altaci, few people currently speak Kokama in Brazil. “We are in a process of strengthening. We lost over 70 elders during the pandemic. And that was a blow to a language that is getting stronger. On the other hand, this also strengthened us, because we are a people of the triple border – Brazil, Peru and Colombia. And we join forces with the people of Peru to continue strengthening our language,” he added.
Who also visited the museum for the first time was Ytatxĩ Guaja, from the Awa Guajá ethnic group, who lives in Bom Jardim, Maranhão. “Glad we got the invitation. It’s the first time I’m in São Paulo”, said Ytatxi. “This exhibition is very beautiful. We really wanted to see this, in this moment of meeting in the museum”, he added. Smiling, Ytatxĩ told the report that he recognized his own voice in one of the parts of the museum that feature the sound of indigenous words.
Throughout the exhibition, it is possible to find an indigenous educator to help the visitor understand everything that is being exposed.
At one of these points, a blue corridor with photos of indigenous ancestors, healers and masters of tradition, which simulates a river, an educator explained to the Agência Brazil report the importance of that space for their culture: “These are people to give us continuity. They bring the wisdom of the past and throw us into the future,” he said.
More information about the exhibition can be found atsite of the museum.
The Portuguese Language Museum has free admission on Saturdays.
Translated to english by RJ983
From Brazil, by EBC News