Foto: Beto Ricardo, 2002

Kalapalo

  • Other names
  • Where they are How many

    MT669 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
  • Linguistic family
    Karib

Economic and ritual activities

kalapalo_11

While the musical performances of a ritual are being held, parallel events are taking place, involving mainly economic activities. The community (called sandagi, “followers”) is led by special ritual officers who inherit their positions, known collectively as aneta~u, “leaders,” who plan, organize, and manage the ritual process. Roughly half of the population in the village receives this designation, including persons of both sexes and all ages, but only the oldest and most experienced consistently hold office.

Lesser tasks are generally allocated to younger anetaé when an event is sufficiently complex to warrant the use of more than two or three organizers. In the case of the egitsu rituals, when as many as five other settlements will be invited, each will be assigned a leader who serves as a messenger (t~iñ~i) and who is responsible for the well-being of the guests. He or she expects payment for this (normally in the form of shell ornaments or a large Waura pottery vessel) from the visiting group in question. In the context of these role enactments, the leaders are referred to as taiyope (“associated with conversation”) or tagioto (“conversation masters”).

As planners, ritual officers schedule and coordinate the entire series of public work projects: cleaning public spaces in the settlement, especially the central plaza, the formal entrance path, and the trail leading to the bathing place; arranging the tasks of collecting, processing, and distributing food, which will be used to repay the participants or to feed the guests later on; collecting raw materials, such as annatto, beeswax, shells, and burity palm for making costumes. These activities must be coordinated with the specific tasks associated with sending invitations to other settlements and preparing campgrounds outside the village to shelter the guests.

In ritual contexts, therefore, the scheduling and coordination of work involve relations between leaders and followers. In non-ritual contexts, Kalapalo social life tends to be organized around household groups and flexible networks of cognatic and affinal relatives. Insofar as Kalapalo ritual life takes up so much time and is directly correlated with major collective subsistence efforts, it is best thought of not so much in contrast with routine existence, but, rather, as a mode of constituting life that complements that of the non-ritual rainy season. What occurs is that the community’s social structure is ordered according to the seasons, such that, during the period of continuous, heavy rainfall, food is scarce and public performances are almost impossible, and, during the period of drought, food is abundant and diverse, and environmental conditions perfect for ceremonies within and between communities.