More than a passion, storytelling is a way that writer and educator Daniel Munduruku found to “provoke people and unravel their way of thinking”. For him, it is a way to challenge colonialist logic and encourage to see things from other points of view. “These are perspectives that indigenous peoples can offer and have been offering throughout over 500 years, but society has declined to listen because people are not interested in listening to this wisdom, which questions the status quo. Instead of thinking about the world existentially, most people think about the world economically, and this ends up devaluing other ways of being human”, he said during the last event of Amazoniar, on September 23rd, under the theme Listen to this story: The wealth of indigenous literature and legends.
Born in Belém (State of Pará), he graduated in Philosophy, has a degree in History and Psychology, as well as a PhD in Education, and a post-doctorate in Linguistics at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar). Munduruku has more than 50 books published in Brazil and abroad, and is one of the most important names in indigenous literature in the country, having been awarded several times for his literary publications.
Check out the highlights of the event.
Decolonizing the comprehension of Brazilian history
“I like to tell stories and be able to share my own because it allows us to reflect about how the history of Brazil has been told. We have been told the colonizer’s perspective. As our populations never had the opportunity to tell their version, because their voices were silenced or, at best, placed at the footnotes of history, many ended up not hearing or discovering what was actually done with this population: persecution, enslavement, extermination, genocide.
Brazil was denied the possibility of knowing other modes of existence and even today this is denied to our children so that every stereotype that comes from this mistaken view will corroborate the winner’s story and never reinforce the loser’s resistance. We, considered eternally defeated, learned to fight to stay alive.”
Son and victim of the military regime
“I was born on February 6th, 1964. On March 1st, the military coup took place. Because of this, I am a son of the military regime and its victim, too – not for being persecuted at that time, but as a child who had to go to school forced by a project of “integration”, a word used by the military. There was an integrationist effort in place and it assumed that the “indigenous” needed to become civilized. They taught how to work according to the Western standards of development. Indigenous children were taken out of their communities and thrown out into a school context because that way they could “learn to be people” and would give up their own indigenous roots.
I was not used to wearing clothes and it was the first torture I suffered: putting on that uniform, and a pair of Conga sneakers that squeezed our fingers. It was the first time in my life that I wore shoes and it was very excruciating. This is how I first arrived at school, being immediately welcomed by my classmates calling me “indigenous”. I confess that I did not know what that word meant. I kept looking for something, thinking it was a bird. Only after I found out that they were referring to me and that it was connected to negative things. I found this out in a very painful way: through rejection, with a complete lack of empathy from people, with my participation in people’s social life denied. This all brought me great anguish and that made me promise myself that I did not want to be indigenous. I thought it was possible to rip my face off. Many used to apply hydrogen peroxide to turn blonde at that time and I tried to do that to my hair, to get away from the stereotype that was played on me and humiliated me.”
“My grandfather Apolinário, an old wise man who is very important in my life, was the one who brought me the wisdom I now share both in oral and written stories: the hope of wanting people to look at our people not the way they want us to be, but as we are.
One day, I was sitting on the edge of a river and the old man invited me to take a bath with him. The old man’s word is sacred, he took me to a place I still did not know in the Amazon forest, a heavenly place that formed a beautiful lake and had a waterfall. He guided me to a place where the water falls and ordered me to listen to what the river had to say. I did not know that rivers could actually talk, even though I had heard these stories before. At that first moment, to my frustration, the river did not speak to me, but laughed at me.
My grandfather said: ‘You cannot hear the river, because your head is too noisy. In order to listen to the river, you need a clear mind’, and continued to teach me some lessons throughout the three years I lived with him. They were lessons in how to listen to nature: ‘Have you ever heard the river complaining when it faces an obstacle? Do you know why the river does not do that? It has a voice inside it that reminds it that if it gives up, it would rot. And if it rots, it would have no use, because there would not be life, joy, or fish. Inside it, there is a voice reminding that it must move on, because the river’s great mission is to dive into the sea. It only fulfills its missions when it dives into the sea’.
I could only understand it years later, at the time I became a grandfather, a very important role in ancestral cultures in general. He taught me to read the world, as nature teaches us to do so. When we do not leave nature behind, we see ourselves as part of it and it teaches us how to lead our existence.”
Contemporary indigenous peoples
“We, indigenous peoples, are contemporary – we are not stuck in the past. The past has never been a prison for us, but it has actually always been the engine of our freedom and our present. Indigenous peoples are part of nature, of circularity, of a collective, which breaks the capitalist and monocratic vision of thinking that the greatest things we can aspire in life is to be Western, to have money, to “be someone in life”. Happiness is precisely in the diversity of Brazil, which we learned to dislike.”
Watch the full video recording of the event:
Amazoniar is an IPAM initiative to promote a global dialogue on the Amazon rainforest and its influence on relations between Brazil and the world. Click here to read more about the third cycle, which has the theme “Culture and art of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon as a form of resistance”.
Photo contest Amazoniar
As part of the third cycle of Amazoniar, IPAM launched a photo contest under the theme “Amazon for the Planet”. It is open to all, regardless of age and nationality, and it aims to encourage the record of realities in the Amazon, as well as the cultural and artistic production in the region.
A panel of judges will select 20 photographs in total. The winners will have their photos exhibited, in digital format or via projection, in Glasgow, Scotland, during the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and at the Museu do Amanhã, in Rio de Janeiro, next to an exhibition scheduled to open at the end of the year. Check out the rules and show your talent!
To receive news about Amazoniar, sign up for our newsletter.