Foto: René Fuerst, 1955

Yawalapiti

  • Other names
  • Where they are How many

    MT156 (Ipeax, 2011)
  • Linguistic family
    Aruak

Village and daily life

yawalapiti_8

Following the upper Xinguan pattern, the Yawalapiti village is circular, with all the communal houses arranged around a plaza which is cleared of forest growth. In the center of the plaza (uikúka) there is a house which is frequented only by the men and is specifically the place where the sacred flutes apapálu are hidden. It is in this house, or on the benches in front of it, that the men get together to chat at dusk, and where they paint themselves for the cerimonies. The house of the flutes is built much like the communal houses, but it has only one or two doors, facing the center of the plaza, which are always smaller than the doors of the communal houses. The flutes are kept hanging from the main beam and during the day they have to be played inside the house; but at night (when the women have retired) the men can play them on the plaza.

The plaza is also the place where the dead of both sexes are buried, in a tunnel that connects two holes, where two poles are set that hold the hammock of the dead (who lies in the tunnel) in place, for the dead amulaw (hereditary category of prestige associated with the positions and functions of leaders and chiefs), or a simple grave (pawá uti, "a hole") for the dead who are not amulaw. In the center of the uikúka the ritual baths that end mourning are held; it is there that the chief makes his speeches and exhortations; it is there that foods are distributed during the cerimonies; there, visitors from other groups are received, especially the formal messengers, who do the inviting to the intergroup cerimonies of the peoples of the upper Xingu. The center is also the place where the members of these different villages face each other physically, in the sportive wrestling matches called karí (or huka huka, in Kamaiurá terminology, as the matches have become best known).

Women rarely go to the uikúka, except on certain cerimonial occasions, when sex roles are inverted (as in the Amurikumálu, which is called Yamurikumã, in Kamaiurá, see the section on the Xingu Indigenous Park, just avaiable in Portuguese version), or when young girls ending their initiation seclusion are presented to society for the first time. The center is the place of visibility par excelence, in contrast with the seclusion compartment. To go to the center is to make the social person public " the emergence of the boys and girls from their seclusion compartments is a movement from the periphery (inside the seclusion compartments, which are located inside the houses) to the center. (For more on puberty seclusion in the upper Xingu, see the item "Village and society" in the section dedicated to the Park).

Manioc is planted by the men who cut down the forest, burn and clean the gardens. Gardens are individual property, belonging to the men, and are assumed as soon as a young man enters into seclusion (14-17 years). These property rights do not apply to the land as such, but only to the manioc plantation. The women pull up the roots, carry them, scrape them and squeeze out their poisonous juice. Manioc is basically consumed in the form of bread (beiju, ulári) " toasted flour, flatcakes, toasted in circular pans -, porridge made with beiju dissolved in water (uluni), and a porridge which is produced by boiling the poisonous juice (nukaya). The flour that remains at the bottom of the pans for squeezing, as well as part of the mass, is stored in silos in the center of the houses.

As for fish, cooking is done by both men and women; the processing of the manioc after it is planted, however, is entirely female work. The women are also in charge of fetching water for the village. It is they who spin cotton " also planted - , weave the hammocks and the mats for squeezing manioc, and prepare the urucum (red vegetal dye) paste, piquí oil and jenipapo dye, used in body ornaments. The men make the baskets, the cerimonial instruments (flutes and rattles), and take care of all the work in wood (benches, bows, mortars, scoops for turning over the beiju etc.). It is also the men who build the houses.