Foto: Miltom Guran, 1978


  • Other names
  • Where they are How many

    MT604 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
  • Linguistic family

The Kamaiurá in the ritual system of the upper Xingu


Myths and intergroup rituals express the strong articulation among the peoples of the upper Xingu and reflect the Kamaiurá belief in a single act of creation for all these people, the culture hero MaWutsinin being responsible for the one and only coherent system that encompasses upper Xinguan culture and nature.

Among the intergroup rituals that regularly take place, the Kwarup (the feast of the dead), the Jawari (celebration feast of the warriors) and the Moitará (encounters for formalized trade) are all worth highlighting.

The ideal state of creation is ritualized in the kwarup, which celebrates solidarity among the peoples of the upper Xingu. The cerimony brings together, in a single village, various ethnic groups of the upper Xingu, which celebrate the deceased of the village that holds the festival, marking the end of the period of mourning. The ritual is thus the dramatization of one of the versions of the creation of man, conjugated with competition in the huka-huka wrestling matches and eventual exchanges of artwork.


This upper Xinguan solidarity is, however, denied in another cerimony, the festival of the Jawari, which emphasizes the distinction and opposition of the participating groups. The dead, honoured in the Kwarup, can come to receive lesser homage in the Jawari. Only one group is invited to this festival. Its high point is the sportly competition of arrow-throwing with a propeller, which symbolizes warrior activity and, in this sense, can be interpreted as the stabilizer of interethnic relations, since it channels attitudes of rivalry and aggressive tendencies towards the practice of a sport.

In this way, contrasting the two cerimonies, one has, on the one hand, the ritual expression of solidarity (kwarup) and, on the other, the greatest manifestation of intergroup hostility (jawari). Both can be understood as symbolic expressions of a social reality in which ethnocentrism coexists with alliances and obligations in the social contact among peoples. Thus, despite being united by strict ties and participating in a culture that is relatively homogeneous, the peoples of the upper Xingu still afirm their respective ethnic identities. It is because of their earnest desire to stay united that each group keeps its distance from the rest, giving prominence to their differential traits, competing to get greater prestige, in articulations that sometimes bring on hostilities. The jawari thus constitutes the synthesis of one of the sides of social contact that expressly marks the identity of each group. It is in the kwarup that the Indians identify themselves as people of the upper Xingu.
The importance of trade in goods, in turn, is reinforced in the moitará, which marks the strict economic link between the groups.