The Wauja

Wauja drawing

Speakers of an Arawakan language, the Wauja Indians have lived for more than a century close to the right shore of the lower Batovi river, in the headwaters of the Xingu river, Central Brazil. However the history of the Wauja in the Upper Xingu is much older. Recent archaeological research suggests that the ancestors of the Wauja arrived in the area some time in the 9th century AD. From the start of the 18th century a multi-ethnic social system began to take shape, which as well as the Wauja included another nine groups with different linguistic affiliations.

The Wauja population now numbers approximately 550 people, 420 of whom inhabit a single circular village. The other 110 people live scattered throughout other villages in the Upper Xingu. Within the system of Xinguano objects, the Wauja are responsible for making large pots and manioc bread platters; these are used as payment in intra- and inter-tribal rituals. Over the last two decades the production of Wauja artefacts, especially pottery, has been expressly focused on the urban market, the main purchasers being museums and artisan shops in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

 

The drawings were commissioned by the anthropologist-researcher, Aristoteles Barcelos Neto and are the very first visualisations of the spirit world of this part of Amazonia. In order to achieve them, he had to teach the Wauja the skills of drawing.

The full collections numbers some 620 items.  On show here is a selection which typifies some of the main predator-prey and habitat characteristics, giving us a rich impression of the internal landscapes of the shaman, made explicit here as an educational tool.