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Brazil: Indian writers and poets on the blogosphere

Categories: Latin America, Brazil, Citizen Media, Ethnicity & Race, Indigenous, Literature, Technology

There is, among the Indian bloggers in Brazil, a special group of writers and poets. Although some anthropologists and linguists look suspiciously on the notion of indigenous literature, tracing the origins of this phenomenon back to a Western tradition that started with Aristotle, these Brazilian Indians of Amerindian origin, as well as those with a mixed background, have declared themselves writers and poets of indigenous literature. Not only that, but they are also publishing, having their work translated into other languages and blogging extensively too.

Daniel Munduruku

Daniel Munduruku

The most prominent figure in the indigenous literature movement in Brazil is Daniel Munduruku [1], an indigenous writer from the Amazon region, resident in São Paulo. With over 30 books published, he is the director of Inbrapi [2], an entity created in 2001 with the aim of defending traditional knowledge from bio-piracy and exploitation by third parties. Daniel has a bilingual website [3] dedicated to his literary work, mostly targeted at youngsters, but also a blog dedicated to drawing attention to news he considers important to the cause of indigenous peoples. For example, on International Women's Day, he wrote this beautiful declaration:

Penso compulsivamente nas mulheres. Não se trata de um olhar desejoso, mas corajoso.
Corajoso porque, confesso, morro de inveja delas: da coragem, da obstinação, da intuição, do olhar sempre distante e sempre presente; da fortaleza e da fraqueza que revelam.
Sei que poderão pensar que isso é humano, presente em homens e mulheres. Eu discordo. Conheço o masculino, convivo com ele em mim e sei que por mais esforço que faça percebo um lobo faminto, sem escrúpulos e sem medida.
Acho que o homem masculino devia ouvir mais as mulheres. É claro que alguns dirão que elas falam demais. Isso também é justo e certo, mas talvez falem muito por terem sido ouvidas tão pouco em passado recente e terem, por isso, que gritar para se fazerem ouvidas. Por isso tenho a impressão que nós homens, precisamos exercitar o sagrado direito de fazer silêncio, ouvir, ouvir e ouvir.
Outros oponentes dessa teoria dirão que, assim, viraremos mulheres. Rebato o argumento dizendo: é disso que estou falando!
Ao menos hoje temos que calar para deixar nossa intuição falar. E minha intuição diz que preciso sentir a dor do outro pra compreendê- lo em sua dimensão humana.
Hoje quero ficar assim, miudinho, pequenininho, quietinho só para ver a magnitude do ser – mulher falar coisas que preciso ouvir.

I think compulsively about women. It's not a sexual outlook, bur rather a courageous one. Courageous because, I confess, I truly envy them: their courage, their determination, their intuition, their outlook always distant whilst always present; the strength and weakness they display.
I know you may think that these are human characteristics, present in both men and women. I disagree. I know masculinity, I live with it inside me and I know that no matter how much I try there is always a hungry wolf in me, with no scruples or ?measures?.
I think the masculine man should listen to women. It's true, some will say they speak too much. That is also fair and correct, but maybe they speak so much for having been so little heard in the recent past and having had, for that reason, to scream to be heard. For that, I have the impression that we men need to exercise the sacred right of being silent, listen, listen and listen.
The opponents to this theory will say that, this way, we will turn into women. I refute their argument by saying: this is exactly what I am talking about!
At least today we must shut up to let our intuition talk. And my intuition says I need to feel the pain of others in order to comprehend their human dimension.
Today, I want to be like this: small, tiny and quiet, just to watch the magnitude of the being – women saying things I need to hear.

Talking of women, the indigenous literature movement is wonderfully well represented by Eliane Potiguara, writer, teacher and indigenous activist who had her name put forward for the Nobel Peace Prize (for the Project A Thousand Women of the World). Eliane, whose origins are in the State of Paraíba but who now lives in Rio de Janeiro, has also a personal website [4]where she disseminates her literary work. She blogs [5]as part of her work at GRUMIN, a network [6] of indigenous women that she helped to create and is the current coordinator of. The blog is a communication tool for indigenous women where she posts a mix of literature, career opportunities, whilst drawing attention to relevant episodes in the plight of indigenous women. Recently, Eliane posted a beautiful text [7] about the literature of the excluded, which she had read out at a literary event:

A literatura dos excluídos ainda é uma pele de Boto que foi destruído ao longo dos séculos e que está esquecido e abandonado no fundo dos rios a precisar renascer_ ardentemente_ com a força da alma da natureza e humana. Mas essa natureza está envolta nas amarras dos séculos de dor, do obscurantismo, dos grandes enigmas e contradições da própria existência, do divino e do amor. A literatura ainda é um segmento cultural e político que não consegue chegar na totalidade das camadas menos privilegiadas social e economicamente do Brasil e do mundo.
Esse Boto Literário precisa ser salpicado com as lágrimas emocionadas da Natureza, muitas desvairadas lágrimas. Aí sim, essas feridas do mundo¬_ que as mulheres indígenas as eternizaram com seus beijos de cura, bálsamos históricos, histórias não contadas e adormecidas no fundo do rio ou dos oceanos, essas sim, _ serão eternamente curadas, assim como o Boto literário.

The latest book by Eliane Potiguara

The latest book by Eliane Potiguara

The literature of the excluded is still a shredded skin of the Boto [8] that has been destroyed along the centuries and is forgotten and abandoned at the bottom of the rivers and needs – ardently – to be reborn with the strength of Nature’s and human’s souls. However, this nature has been wrapped up in centuries of pain, of obscurantism, of great enigmas and contradictions of our own existence, of divinity and love. Literature is still a cultural and political segment, which does not manage to reach the totality of the less affluent classes in Brazil and in the world.
This literary Boto needs to be sprinkled with emotional tears from Nature, many despairing tears. Then indeed, these wounds of the world – that the indigenous women make eternal with their healing kisses, historic balsams, and stories not told that are sleeping at the bottom of rivers and oceans, these indeed – will be eternally healed, as will be the literary Boto.

Another active indigenous writer is Olivio Jekupe [9] who has an incredible life history, having had to overcome many obstacles to be able to study philosophy and establish himself as the writer he is today. With many books published, some of them translated into Italian. Olivio brings presents strongly the issue of his mixed background [10], which is a reality of many Brazilian Indians:

O mestiço é o mais discriminado nesse país, pois tanto eu quanto muitos no Brasil sofrem. Sei que sou mestiço e não tenho culpa de ser, e a miscigenação existe desde a chegada dos portugueses, não sou o primeiro índio não puro e não serei o último. Mesmo não sendo índio puro, quero dizer que tenho orgulho de ser o que sou e não podemos ter vergonha, meso que a sociedade nos discriminem.

The mixed race [Indian] is the most discriminated against in this country, for many like me suffer in Brazil. I know I am miscegenated and I am not to blame for that, and miscegenation has existed since the arrival of the Portuguese colonizer, I am not the first non-pure indian and I won't be the last one. Even though I am not a pure indian, I have to say that I am proud of being what I am and we cannot be ashamed, even if society discriminates against us.

In his blog, Olivio posts articles about his indigenous literature, for example, on the interesting story of the indigenous origin of the Saci [11], a folklore character widely known through Monteiro Lobato's books as being black and having only one leg, whereas, according to Olivio, the real Saci actually has two legs!

Imagem do Saci Pererê de Monteiro Lobato. Imagem de André Koehne sob licença do Creative Commons

Saci Pererê according to Monteiro Lobato. Image by André Koehne under Creative Commons license

Não sei se já ouviram falar que o Saci na verdade é um personagem indígena e que tem duas pernas, é provável que não ouviram ainda, pois eu fui o primeiro que escreveu dois livros que fala sobre esse personagem, tenho dois livros com o título – Ajuda do Saci, da Editora DCL, e o outro que se chama – O Saci Verdadeiro, da Editora UEL. Nos meus livros eu tento mostrar que o personagem tem duas pernas e é um índio, diferente da visão de Monteiro Lobato.
E sei que já tem documentários sobre esse tema, e muitas matérias que falei para jornalistas, e até teses de mestrado sobre o tema, como fez a escritora Graça Graúna onde ela fala do meu livro, O Saci Verdadeiro.
É importante que todos possam conhecer esse personagem onde tento mostrar o que nas Aldeias Guarani é comum ouvir sobre ele.
Sei que um dia minhas histórias serão tão conhecida que serei convidado para dar palestras em vários cantos do Brasil, de Norte a Sul do Brasil.

I don't know if you have heard that Saci is in fact an indigenous character and has two legs. It's possible that you have not heard yet, because I was the first one to write two books that talked about this character, I have two books called – Help the Saci, published by the DCL Publishing House, the other is called – The True Saci, from the EUL Publishing House. In my books I try to show that the character has two legs and is an indian, different from Monteiro Lobato's vision.
I know that there are already documentaries about this theme and in many articles I've spoken to journalists about it, even masters theses have been written about it, like the one by the writer Graça Graúna, where she cites my book, The True Saci. It is important that everyone can know about this character who I try to show in the Guarani tribes is commonly talked about.
I know one day my stories will be so well known that I will be invited to give lecture all over Brazil.

Olívio mentions Graça Graúna [12], another indigenous writer, a poet, from the Northeast of Brazil, originally from Rio Grande do Norte State, but currently living in Pernambuco State. She is as active in life as she is on the blogosphere. Her prize winning blog is much visited and brings a mix of news about indigenous literature and her wonderful poetry. Amongst many, I have chosen one poem [13] to share with you, which is also a flower…

aos poetas Carlos e Sônia Brandão
… que Ñanderu* acolha
as pedras da nossa canção.
Que seja pedra enquanto leveza
o sinal: sem poesia os tempos não existirão
Graga Graúna, Nordeste do Brasil, 12 de março de 2009.
* Ñanderu, em guarani, significa Nosso Pai; o Grande Espírito, o Criador.

dedicated to the poets Carlos and Sônia Brandão
…that Ñanderu* receives
the stones of our chant.
That it be stone whilst algo light
the sign: without poetry the times will not come

Graça Graúna, March 12, 2009
* Ñanderu, in Guarani, means Our Father; Great Spirit, the Creator.

For those who want to know more about indigenous literature, the NEARIN blog [14], kept by the Nucleus of Indigenous Writers and Artists of INBRAPI, is worth a visit. The blog aims to provide a space for debate around indigenous literature and art. It brings a diversity of news about the theme, registering related events taking place all over Brazil as well as a list of authors and books on indigenous literature. For those who happen to be in São Paulo on April 19th, Indian Day, go to have a look at the Recital of Indigenous Poetics, at the Casa das Rosas, Avenida Paulista, 37, starting at 15:00 local time. Below is the invitation:


At the end of this fascinating tour around the blogosphere, ask yourself: is there any doubt whether indeed an indigenous literature exists in Brazil?

In the first article of this series, we introduced the Indian blogosphere [16]. In the next one, you will learn how indian people in Brazil have been using the blogosphere to fight for their rights.