Foto: Camila Gauditano, 2001

Kisêdjê

  • Autodenominação
    Kisidjê
  • Where they are How many

    MT424 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
  • Linguistic family

Body Ornaments

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Body ornaments are inserted during rites of passage and are a mark of status. Kĩsêdjê body ornamentation has changed considerably since 1959. Before that, adult men and women carried large discs of wood or palm leaf spirals painted with white clay inserted in their ears. These discs could reach eight or more centimeters in diameter. Early in the 20th-century women stopped using these ornaments because of contact with groups in the Upper Xingu who do not use this form of ornament, but the men continue to stretch their ear lobes and wear them.

Men wore a lip disc in their lower lip. The lower lip was pierced and gradually stretched creating a narrow band of muscle which held an elliptical disc of light wood that could reach seven or eight centimeters. The lip discs were painted with red urucum on the top and sides but left the natural white color of the wood on the underside, with the exception of a small circular design representing the Pleiades constellation. This was painted near the center in a black dye made from genipapo surrounding a small raised area in the center of the underside of the disc.

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Men frequently did not wear their ear discs during the day but they always wore their lip discs, only removing them to wash their mouths when they bathed. During ceremonies men would make and wear new ornaments in both their lips and their ears, which were often decorated with cotton strings and other ornaments.

Both sexes had their ears pierced at the earliest signs of sexual activity, if it had not already been done at birth. Men's lower lips were pierced between the ages of 15 and 20, when they reached the age at which they were considered fully adult and ready to enter the men's house. While they lived in the men's house, that is, before becoming parents and moving into their wives houses, young men were expected to make and wear steadily larger lip discs, and to sing a great deal.

Due to the decades of contact with other peoples within the Xingu Indigenous Park and with non-Indians, the Kĩsêdjê have ceased to use these body ornaments. In spite of this, the cosmological significance that the ornaments expressed still applies. Ear discs and lip discs were clearly associated with the cultural importance given to hearing as well as to speech and song. The Kĩsêdjê associated ear discs with hearing and lip discs with the speaking and singing. The ear was pierced so that a person would hear-understand-know well--not just physically but morally. They also said that the lip disc was associated with aggressiveness and bellicosity, correlated with masculine self-affirmation, speech, and song.

 

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The color of the ornaments was also significant. Red is associated with heat and bellicosity. The circular design on the underside represents the constellation of stars that we call the Pleiades. The Kĩsêdjê say that the constellation is a group of young men in the sky. The ear discs were often painted white, a color associated with coolness and passivity.

When the nose and eyes are painted, as in hunting expeditions and in certain ceremonies in which men metamorphose into animals, they are usually painted black, a color associated with antisocial attributes and witches.