Foto: Miltom Guran, 1978

Kamaiurá

  • Other names
    Kamayurá
  • Where they are How many

    MT467 (Ipeax, 2011)
  • Linguistic family
    Tupi-Guarani

Productive activities

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In the process of food production, agriculture has a central place. From agriculture come the fundamental ingredients for making beiju, basic product of Kamaiurá nourishment.

The dwellers of a house organize the labor for manioc production under the coordination of the house-owner.Both in the clearing of the garden and in the harvest, work presupposes cooperation among the domestic group, even if each nuclear family has its own garden. The men prepare the garden and the women take the manioc out of the soil. Several of them participate in the harvest of a single garden. In the village, manioc is processed by the woman, who extracts from it the pulp and starch, both fundamental ingredients in the preparation of beiju. Another food product which is obtained from manioc is mohete, a thick and sweetened soup which is produced from the boiling of the water that washed the pulp.

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After they are dry, the manioc pulp and starch are stored in the house in cylindrical deposits that vary from 2.40meters to 2.60 meters in height by 0.80meters to 0.85 meters in diameter. It constitutes a reserve for daily use and nourishment during the rains. If some resident member has to assume the responsibility of distributing beiju in cerimonial situations, he/she begins extra production, which is kept in a distinct recipient. The product derived from manioc is stored in a common place inside the house, thus being for collective consumption, independent of the participation that each person had in its production.

Just as with the processing of manioc, the preparation of beiju is a female task. Several times a day, the fire is lit under the ceramic plate where the beiju is toasted. There the women alternate, sometimes toasting only for their husband and children, sometimes for all of the dwellers. Beiju is eaten at all times of the day: with grilled fish or soaked, only with pepper, pure or dissolved in water, or even in the form of cauim [fermented beverage].

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There is even a distribution of beiju among the houses of the village which does not reflect a need for consumption, since all of them produce the food, but which demonstrates the abundance and generosity of the domestic group who gives, which are highly valued by this society. Even during the rains, when fishing is not very productive and the manioc stock is low, at times soaked beiju with fish is taken to other houses. The food distribution goes beyond the limits of the village, since in the cerimonial gatherings it is always up to the host group to provide abundant food to the guests.

 

 

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There is even a distribution of beiju among the houses of the village which does not reflect a need for consumption, since all of them produce the food, but which demonstrates the abundance and generosity of the domestic group who gives, which are highly valued by this society. Even during the rains, when fishing is not very productive and the manioc stock is low, at times soaked beiju with fish is taken to other houses. The food distribution goes beyond the limits of the village, since in the cerimonial gatherings it is always up to the host group to provide abundant food to the guests.

Together with beiju, fish constitutes a primordial food product for the Kamaiurá (as for the rest of the upper Xinguan peoples), it being the only regular source of animal protein. Various techniques are utilized, each of which requiring different forms of cooperation. Thus, the technique of timbó, which consists of putting plant poison into the waters of streams that have been previously dammed up, involves the participation of most of the men of the village. The fish killed, whether from the effect of the poison, or shot with arrows, are roasted on the very spot where the fishing takes place. Fewer men participate in fishing with nylon nets, the mechanics of which dispenses with broader cooperation. The various forms of fishing with bows and arrow, small native nets, traps and hook are done by one or two individuals, or among the members of the nuclear family.
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AWhereas in the dry season, fish is part of the daily diet, in the rains its relative scarcity is compensated with a variety of food products, such as corn, papaya, watermelon, among others. Kamaiurá agriculture even includes the cultivation of other plants as much for cerimonial purposes (urucu and tobacco), as to produce various crafted goods (gourds and cotton). In these cases, the work of planting and gathering is usually individual, with the man taking care of the tobacco and the woman the cotton.

The hunting of several birds and small animals, as well as the gathering of forest fruits, also contribute to variety in the diet, but they play a secondary role with regard to food production. In relation to hunting, male labor is almost individual, the main objectives being to guarantee food for the harpy eagle (the presence of which is characteristic of the upper Xinguan villages and which is kept in a large conical cage, made of sticks), to substitute fish in the diet of people undergoing food tabus, and to obtaiin feathers for the production of artwork.

Gathering is usually collective work and involves the participation of women and children. The principal products are honey, pequi, jenipapo, mangaba, ants, tracajá eggs and firewood. Among these, the nut extracted from pequi is more important than the others as a cerimonial food distributed on the occasion of the Kwarup.

In relation to the production of artifacts and clothing, even though part of the raw material used in the preparation may be the fruit of cooperative labor in the family group, the final articles are created through individual efforts. But the artisan doesn’t always become the owner of the new good, principally in relation to the instruments of labor.

Metal articles, on which nearly all male productive activities depend, do not entirely substitute the indigenous artwork used by the women in food production. Thus pots and metal kettles compete with the gourds used in carrying and storing water, without however, threatening the position of ceramic pots, a central element of the Kamaiurá kitchen, obtained through trade with the Wauja group.

A large part of the materials used in the elaboration of artwork is of native origin – wood, embira, buriti fibre, cotton etc. But they also use industrialized products, such as beads of porcelain and glass, thread of cotton and wool, tins, nails, dyes, etc. Among these items, wool thread competes with native cotton and has in several cases (such as the making of hammocks) substituted it entirely. Other items, such as beads, which are highly valued in the elaboration of collars and belts, have not diminished the importance of their native equivalents – snailshell beads – produced by the Kalapalo and Kuikuro. .