By Ueslei Marcelino
Deep in the Brazilian heartland, where the upper reaches of the Amazon Basin dissolve into the central plateau, I had the opportunity last week to spend a few days in the village of joy.
What I dubbed the village of joy is the home of the Yawalapiti tribe. One day last week, a group of us were escorted into the Xingu National Park by members of the Darcy Ribeiro Foundation and the Cavaleiro de Jorge cultural center, and arrived at the circular Yawalapiti village under an enormous full moon.
The mood was one of celebration. The Yawalapiti, one of the 14 tribes living inside the Xingu National Park, were preparing a new “quarup,” a ritual held over several days to honor in death a person of great importance to them. In its original form, the quarup was a funeral ritual intended to bring the dead back to life. Today, it is a celebration of life, death and rebirth. From the very oldest to the very youngest, all the members of the Yawalapiti tribe participate in the preparations.
They wrestled, danced, fished and prepared food for the main event which will happen in August. Yawalapiti warriors held wrestling matches in a sort of qualifying round to select the best team to confront warriors from other tribes. From the inter-tribal event during the quarup will emerge the great champion.
They danced to native flutes producing sounds that were magical to me. The flutes, made of bamboo and called urua, produced strong, rhythmic music, that carried the celebration past the huts of the village and into the jungle.