“But we were wise. We knew that man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard.”
― Chief Luther Standing Bear
Portfolio published at LENS CULTURE
For 5 weeks I stayed with the Xukuru indians in Pernambuco, Brazil. One of the reasons I visited them was because I am fascinated by the re-identification of the indigenous peoples.The Xukuru are among them. After five centuries of repression by the colonisers, which almost cut them off entirely of their native culture and religion, the Xukuru are in a process of revival and restoration of what went lost. From the beginning of the colonisation, the Portuguese forced the Xukuru to accept inter-cultural marriage; that’s why today they do not look exactly like we expect Indians to be. Among the Xukuru there are African looking people, Asian, and even white, blond-haired people. They wear modern cloths. But when they celebrate an important feast or when they dance the Toré they wear traditional cloths like the ‘barritina’ (Xukuru headdress) or the indigenous skirt made of palm leaves.
The Xukuru drive around in cars, have cell phones, internet..but simultaneously they treasure their spiritual leader: the Pajé, and their holy ancestors: the ‘Encantados’. In western society, we have often this image in mind of the ‘true’ indigenous: people who live in remote places of the world, have not yet been into contact with civilisation, have never heard of internet or television, and look stunning in their traditional cloths. But all over the world there are indigenous peoples who do not fit in this aesthetic, photogenic picture. Are they then less indigenous, less true?
I have photographed 300 individual Xukuru with my iPhone, and I used the Tinto 1884 Hipstamatic App. I chose this app beforehand, because I wanted to emphasize this ambivalence: this mix of the modern with the traditional; the old with the new, and by doing so, raise the question: “what is authentic, what is fake?” Is this ‘re-identification’ possible or is their ‘authentic’ culture definitely and irreversibly gone lost? Or do these people create a new kind of identity; well fit for the 21st century?
I made family portraits with my analogue Mamiya 67. To accentuate the timeless and universal importance of family bonds.
The filosophy of Bem Viver (Good Life), as practised by the Xukuru:
“We emphasize again that life is sacred, and that the earth, our mother, nourishes us and offers our sanctuaries a stay. We need to take care of her, which is a prerequisite for a ‘Good Life’. We experience how politics and big development projects initiated by the federal government, threaten us and invade our areas to destroy the holy nature and Mother Earth, and disturb and hinder the ‘Good Life’. We reject the construction of dams, of building nuclear power plants, the diversion of the San Francisco River, and other plans for the exploitation of indigenous lands in Brazil. We know that the ‘Good Life’ should entail a change of institution. Therefore it is necessary that we reject the values of the colonial rulers , where they are still being practiced . We want to live with respect for nature, water, forests, rocks, mountains and animals. We respect the elderly, women, youth and children. Older people are an example to us. Solidarity, unity, participation, friendship, religion, dancing the Toré, harmony, freedom, impartiality, obedience, we want to live and cherish these values. We invite anyone who wants to join us to build the ‘ Good Life ‘.”