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Mato Grosso do Sul, Southwest Brazil – 2008

The young shaman


for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Ronald Woan)

Mato Grosso do Sul.

It is night. “Uahh!” A shrill cry sounds through the jungle again and again. Osvaldo comes running through the forest. His face is completely blackened by the mud he just has smeared on it. When he arrives at the villa and sees the big landowner standing by his car, he shouts, pointing his finger, “You have murdered Nadio, and now you’re running away. Just run, but if you ever return, you'll see what will happen.” The white man, alarmed, pushes both his daughters and his wife into the car, and drives hurriedly away. A man with a big gun shouts at Osvaldo, “Get the hell out of here.” Osvaldo answers, “I'm not afraid of you, just go ahead, shoot a bullet through my skull.” Then he runs back to the jungle, and again his shrill cry sounds several times.

Osvaldo is a sixteen-year-old Indian boy with straight black hair. He wears old shorts, and a faded T-shirt. For the past few years he has been anxious, because he sometimes has bad dreams, which afterwards come true. Nhanderu, the old shaman, told him that he should become a shaman. He gave him a holy gourd to play music with, and advised him to pray and sing a lot. He needs to learn how to distinguish good and evil voices.


for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Ronald Woan)

Mato Grosso do Sul.

Osvaldo and his fellow tribesmen are in difficult times. During the last sixty years they have lost most of their jungle, and they have to survive in a small reserve. There is not much wildlife any more, and as a result they are hungry. Forced by necessity, they work for the big landowners, who have settled here, cut down the forest, and established vast sugar-cane plantations.
The old shaman told Nadio, the tribal head, that the situation could not continue like this, that everyone would die or leave, and that it was time to take back a portion of the land of their ancestors and start growing maize there. Then the tribe occupied part of a large field, built huts there, and sowed maize. The big landowner called in the police, but they were unable to do much, because first the court had to give its verdict. The big landowner didn't want to wait that long, and he hired a few criminals, who killed Nadio this night.

When Osvaldo returns to the camp, everyone is gathered wailing around the dead Nadio. Osvaldo goes round with his holy gourd, sings and prays. This night he has pointed out evil, named it, and cursed it. From this night, he knows that from now on he will act when a boundary is overstepped. This night he has become a real shaman.

_______________________

Source
Birdwatchers (2008) from the Brazilian director Marco Bechis is a compelling movie about the life of Indians, who are pushed into the margins of existence.



Go to next page: Whiplashes - a small nomad camp in Mali – 2012
Go to: last published overview