A Kôkôjagõti Blog

An Undergraduate’s Experience Researching Indigenous Media Practices

Guest Post by Purdue Wilke Intern, Madelyn Van Oostenburg.

Check out Madelyn’s Global Indigenous Media Guide here.

My name is Madelyn Van Oostenburg, and I’m a junior at Purdue University studying anthropology. This fall semester I had the privilege to work with Dr. Zanotti researching indigenous media and it’s influence on a global scale. I was initially intrigued by the work due to my ignorance of what indigenous media might entail. My exposure to these forms of media had been limited and I wanted to further understand how indigenous media could be used as a form of self-expression. However, throughout my research I came to realize the deeper implications of indigenous media and the various reasons for why these forms of media are created. I learned about the experiences of Indigenous Peoples globally and was able to find similarities in their experiences and relate these to how media could be used as a medium to bring awareness to indigenous rights. Researching indigenous media opened my eyes to the marginalization that Indigenous Peoples face, and also revealed the importance that indigenous media plays in shedding light onto the various ways of life associated with indigenous groups across the world. This research exposed me to the significance of indigenous media in today’s world, and the course that it could continue to follow in the future.

My research consisted of two elements, reading and taking notes on the edited volume, Global Indigenous Media, and also watching films associated with indigenous peoples that were either produced by or about indigenous groups. Global Indigenous Media was key to my understanding of indigenous media practices on a worldly scale, and gave insight to the importance of indigenous media for both indigenous and non-indigenous peoples alike. The edited volume examined several different forms of media, how they were utilized in their specific cultural context, and how they brought about change. The films I watched gave me a deeper understanding of the dilemmas Indigenous Peoples face today, such as issues of environmental protection and the impacts of colonialism. One of my favorite films, Kinja Iakaha, A Day in the Village, was produced by Waimiri/Atroari indigenous peoples and is a great example of an indigenous film produced by members of the group being depicted. This film was important in my studies as it was a strong example of self-representation. Many of the films I watched were closely tied with various indigenous groups of the Amazon and gave a strong visualization as to how ideologies of development and industrialization alter their ways of life. 

Throughout a semester of reading and watching films about Indigenous Peoples, I realized similar patterns in the use of indigenous media for differing Indigenous Peoples across the world. These include using indigenous media as a form of self-representation, a means of asserting political autonomy, preserving cultural traditions, promoting cultural visibility, and utilizing media as a form of political action for indigenous rights. I came to realize the importance of indigenous media in the current age, and how these forms of media can be used as a way to bring attention to issues of indigeneity. During my research experience, I began to understand indigenous media as a means of both political and artistic expression that can be used strategically to bring awareness to the unique livelihoods of indigenous peoples globally, while preserving their traditions. 

I am extremely grateful I had the opportunity to do this kind of work. This semester revealed to me the importance of indigenous media forms in the modern era while exposing me to the worldly complications Indigenous Peoples face. Becoming more aware of the marginalization Indigenous Peoples experience was challenging from my point of view as I hadn’t before been faced with these harsh realities. However, I believe it is incredibly necessary for these viewpoints to be expressed in the public eye instead of leaving them to be silenced. Indigenous media is a tool for action and a canvas for expression, and it deserves to be seen. 

Summer 2018 Collaborations

New Solar Power, A Second Film Workshop, and the International Society of Ethnobiology Conference

Post by Dr. Laura Zanotti

This blog features news about the people and stories behind the filmmaking initiatives and filmmakers who are part of Kôkôjagõti, a Kayapó-Mebêngôkre media center and collective in the Brazilian Amazon.


This summer was busy. We kicked it off by printing an over 50 page illustrated book in Portuguese designed by the Purdue EPICS GAPS Brazil team that is supervised by experts at Purdue, the Federal University of Uberlândia, and The Protected Forest Association (Associação Floresta Protegida-AFP). This book contained the results of over three years of hard work by the students as well as advisors, and covered sustainable solar designs, hardware and software recommendations, anti-virus campaigns, and safety recommendations. Created for the community of A’Ukre and the Kayapó NGO AFP, we were excited to hand over several print copies while in Brazil and look forward to our continued work with our two local partners to support the Kôkôjagõti media center and media makers.

With the help of AFP intern Alex Gasçon we were able to deliver a weather resilience workshop, also designed by EPICS GAPS students, on best practices on how to care for laptop computers in humid and dusty spaces as well as provided extra protective casings for the laptops.


Perhaps the most exciting event for the summer, though, was working with a local solar technician to mounting of six solar panels on Kôkôjagõti and the set up of a complete solar system, inclusive of charge controllers, fuse boxes, and other safety elements that to date has not been available or accessible to the community or filmmakers.

With permission from the filmmakers and technician, we filmed and photographed the entire set-up so other communities wishing to do the same will have a blueprint.

We are thrilled to have an opportunity to work with the AFP Béture Collective (Colectivo Béture- Béture) this summer. Béture is a filmmaking collective lead by Simone Giovine, and supports the media making efforts filmmakers from across the Kayapó Lands. With Béture and AFP we partnered with Middle Tennessee State University to host the second filmmaking workshop in the Kayapó village of Kaprankrere. Over 21 filmmakers joined in on the workshop to produce 6 short films at the end of four days of coursework. There were two main differences in the workshop this year: several Middle Tennessee State students joined in on the workshop, providing technical support to the filmmakers, and we were able to invite a cohort of women filmmakers for the first time.

After the workshop, a select number of more advanced filmmakers from the Béture Collective traveled to Belém for the International Society of Ethnobiology Conference Belém +30. Two of the team members were filmmakers from Kôkôjagõti. The collective was the only multi-camera indigenous filmmaking crew at the event and was able to film panels, forums, exhibitions, and the sociobiodiversity fair. Importantly, the collective was there to document the historic re-writing and updating of the 1988 Belém Declaration, which established the importance of valuing indigenous, traditional and local knowledge systems, benefit-sharing agreements, and rights. The collective also participated with a larger delegation of Kayapó leadership to open the Darrell Posey exhibit at the Museum Goeldi Zoobotanical Gardens in the city, which memorializes Posey’s work and research program with the Kayapó for over two decades.

Photos by Laura Zanotti

Photos by Laura Zanotti

Three Years of Kôkôkagõti: Reflections and Updates From the Field.

A guest post by course alumni and intern, Alex Gasçon.

This blog features news about the people and stories behind the filmmaking initiatives and filmmakers who are part of Kôkôjagõti, a Kayapó-Mebêngôkre media center and collective in the Brazilian Amazon.

Alex on the river near A’Ukre. Photo by Connor Johnson.

Alex on the river near A’Ukre. Photo by Connor Johnson.

Alex Gasçon

My first introduction to the Kôkôjagõti media center was in the summer of 2016 during an anthropological field course. It was made possible by the hard work and ongoing relationships established between Professor Laura Zanotti, Professor Diego Soares, the filmmakers, the community of A’Ukre, and the Associação Floresta Protegida. I had just taken a visual anthropology course that I took as I completed my 3rd year as an undergraduate anthropology student at the University of Concordia in Montreal. As I learned a bit about the media center and the work surrounding it, I quickly realized I’d have to push aside most of what I had learned in class because of the uniqueness of Kôkôjagõti.

I wasn’t looking at photos taken by a Western-trained anthropologists, or watching films created by an anthropological eye. I was looking at the creation of Indigenous media by Indigenous Peoples. This raises an important question; what is the ultimate goal of the different media (films, photos, etc.) that is produced? Perhaps this is a question that can only be adequately answered by a Mebêngôkre-Kayapó filmmaker. However, it is safe to say that the Kôkôjagõti media center, which is a part of the Self Determination in a Digital Age project, is a multi-faceted initiative that aims to provide indigenous filmmakers with the means to express themselves socially, culturally, or politically.

This past summer marked the three-year anniversary of the media center. Since partnering with EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service) at Purdue University in 2015, the filmmakers have continued to examine how the media center could become more sustainable and efficient to support the variety of mediamaking activities going on there. This year the EPICS team, working on problems the Mebêngôkre-Kayapó filmmaker identified that year, co-designed an entirely new solar system and a weather resiliency plan. I had the good fortune of being able to facilitate the completion of these and other goals for Kôkôkagõti this summer.

The new solar system was installed over the course of two days on July 17th and 18th by a hired solar technician from Total Energia Solar. Accompanied by the filmmakers, the technician followed the proposed EPICS design as closely as he could, diverting only once or twice due to a restriction of necessary materials on hand. The advantage of the new 6-panel solar system was that it could provide a necessary, efficient and steady source of power for their filming and editing needs. A typical solar setup, which consists of a single panel connected to a car battery and inverter, depleted car batteries at a rate that was unsustainable and also created an extra burden of electronic waste. The idea behind Kôkôjagõti is to empower, not hinder, Kayapó filmmakers thereby demanding the installment of a reliable, and sustainable solar panel system. 
 In a similar vein, the EPICS team designed the weather resiliency plan with the goal of sustainability in mind. Sustainability in design allows for filmmakers to focus on their craft, and allows for resources to be allocated elsewhere. The weather resiliency plan addressed the problems of ‘red dust’ and humidity. Lightweight and relatively cheap, the new weather resiliency plan aims to protect laptops, cameras, and other filmmakers’ equipment through the use of plastic bins, silica packs, neoprene sleeves, humidity monitors, silicone port plugs, and instruction booklets. Due to unforeseen circumstances, not all materials were able to arrive in time. The final step before the weather resiliency plan can go into effect is a workshop explaining the use of each item and why it’s necessary.

I also performed an inventory of all equipment in the media center, which was cross-referenced with the previous year’s list. Knowing what gear the media center has and where it’s located is an important component to running an efficient media center. It informs resource management, and editing and filming capabilities. Mebêngôkre-Kayapó involvement is a crucial part of the completion of these activities because the ultimate goal is that the media center can be fully managed by the Mebêngôkre-Kayapó for the Mebêngôkre-Kayapó. That is to say, if there is an issue with the solar system, they can troubleshoot possible solutions or at least properly shut down the system so no further damage is caused. Coincidentally, due to the success of the media center I did not have a single day in which all ten of the Kôkôkagõti filmmakers were in the village with me. Several of the men filmmakers were spread out between being in the city, at a filming/editing workshop, and in other villages filming cultural celebrations. I was still able to work with several filmmakers in each activity and the summer was a definite success! During the student course, we even had the privilege of having a question and answer session with the women filmmakers and another one with one of the male filmmakers who had just returned from filming in another village. From them, we learned about the importance of the Brazil nut as an economic resource, and that although women filmmakers are eager to film and produce content, they find it difficult to balance domestic and social duties with the new role of being a filmmaker.

The success of Kôkôjagõti is a testament to the hard work, and dedication of the multiple international and national institutions that are involved in the project. It’s exciting to look to the future of Indigenous media when places like Kôkôjagõti exist.

Alex Gasçon graduated with a bachelors degree in anthropology from the University of Concordia in Montreal. He is interested in the role indigenous peoples have in land management, and conservation. This was his third summer in Kayapo Indigenous Territory. Currently based in Maryland  Alex is looking into furthering his education while remaining involved with the Kayapo Project.

In their own words: a discussion with the filmmakers

Filmadores Mebêngôkres: A Discussion with ­Bepunu and Pat-i Kayapo

A blog that features news about the people and stories behind the filmmaking initiatives and filmmakers who are part of Kôkôjagõti, a Kayapó-Mebêngôkre media center and collective in the Brazilian Amazon.

Pat-i Kayapó and Bepunu Kayapó visited Purdue University in March of 2018 as part of a video tour in the United States where their work was shown at the Smithsonian Institution's Mother Tongue Film Festival along with presentations of work at Middle Tennessee State University, Northwestern University, Vanderbilt University, and the Field Museum, Chicago. At Purdue, they took time to sit down with project partners to talk about their craft.


Purdue University, March 6, 2018

Translated by Ingrid Ramón Parra and Dr. Laura Zanotti

Questions posed and translation transcription by Pamela Carralero

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Bepunu: My name is Bepunu and I’m from Moikarako, a village in Brazil’s southern state of Pará.

I am an indigenous filmmaker and have a dream of one day creating films showcasing the lives and festivals of indigenous people both within and beyond my village.

While I hope to show these films in my village, I would ultimately like to screen them in different spaces throughout Brazil. Over the past few years, I have learned an enormous amount about information technology and am very happy to have the opportunity to engage in media-making in the land where I live, and am very happy to be here now participating in this short interview.

In 2004 my journey as a filmmaker began. I was trained by the American filmmaker Dr. Glenn Shepard in the Goeldi Museum in Belém do Pará during a program exclusively focused on teaching indigenous peoples the art of filmmaking.

In general, I film both important events taking place in my village and the daily activities of women, children, and different community members.

My goal is simply to share indigenous life, be it inside my village, outside of my village, in indigenous or non-indigenous spaces. I have had the chance to present my work in Europe and throughout Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro, São Paolo, Belém, and at a film festival in Acre. I’ve additionally traveled to other indigenous territories in Brazil to film and get to know the people who live there.

I am an active filmmaker. However, in the future I hope to become a teacher to show other indigenous peoples the art of filmmaking, from utilizing the necessary equipment to editing the final product. Most importantly, though, I want to see other worlds. In every place I travel to I meet other indigenous peoples. I feel it’s important that we connect with each other; I want to learn about their ways of life, and, in turn, want to share my culture with them.  

Pat-i: My name is Pat-i and I’m from the village of A’Ukre. Since I began watching films I’ve wanted to be a filmmaker. I began practicing filmmaking in 2011 and since then can be found behind the camera capturing images.

I want to learn more about the technology behind the trade and how to use computers to their full extent by learning things such as how to use a pin drive or how to share news through email to be able to serve as a teacher to other community members or indigenous peoples interested in filmmaking. 

I’ve filmed a lot of different events in my community, like ceremonies and hunting and fishing expeditions, and I want to share these events with others. My goal is to become a professional filmmaker, and so I’ve been working very hard to learn more and more about filmmaking and editing techniques. There are also many film styles, such as documentary, that I don’t know yet and need help and support to learn. In the Kayapo Lands, there are misguided people currently attempting to take away our lands and destroy our territory. Film can help defend our territory and culture.

What motivates you as filmmakers?

Pat-i: Self-representation through film and images is crucial. Let’s take, for example, Video in the Villages [a Brazilian a non-governmental, non-profit organization that teaches Amazon Indians how to use filmmaking technology]. Back in the 1970s, the organization’s founder began the program and since then has been working with indigenous filmmakers. However, the resulting films unfortunately haven’t been distributed to a larger population in any way.

We got hold of an old video that was filmed in about four different villages some time ago. In it we saw a lot of young people who were interested in filming for posterity – for their children and grandchildren. Yet no one in the film was really speaking about village life, which we need to remember. Hunting, collective gardening, festivals from beginning to end – film serves as a register for these activities. Museums and universities can help in that they can be safe spaces for archiving these films so that they can be safely preserved for future generations.  

What is the largest challenge you face as an indigenous filmmaker?   

Bepunu: Being an indigenous filmmaker is not easy. In fact, it’s very difficult. Just traveling to the city and leaving the village to participate in, for example, an audio-visual course or any kind of event showcasing my/our work is very hard, not only because of money but also because of the time and resources spent to travel to the destination.

We also face challenges when it comes to attempting to source funds for purchasing film equipment, especially if it’s through the Brazilian bureaucratic system. As Kayapo, we don’t have our own money to buy these things – so we rely on the bureaucratic system to get equipment. People sometimes ask us why we don’t have equipment sooner or can’t get it faster. With the Brazilian system, there’s a lot of wait time before anything can be accomplished or resolved and then transferred into the hands of filmmakers or of an indigenous community. There can be a general wait time of 1-2 years between petitioning and then receiving the funds to get the equipment.

Unfortunately, sometimes projects fall through during this wait time. We need support, we need different types of equipment to work with video and sound. Getting all these things are very difficult. Plus, there are some Brazilians who have very little interest in helping the Kayapo attain this equipment faster, or in a more streamlined way. We currently have to do a large amount of paperwork for grants and or for funding for small project before we can get bureaucratic or film processes moving.

The Power of Self-Representation: A’Ukre Looks to the Future as they Envision the Possibilities of Digital Technology

A Guest Post by Ingrid Carolina Ramón Parra

A blog that features news about the people and stories behind the filmmaking initiatives and filmmakers who are part of Kôkôjagõti, a Kayapó-Mebêngôkre media center and collective in the Brazilian Amazon.

Proj Audiov Aukre - 03-12-16  (28) (1).JPG

I first encountered the Kayapó as an undergraduate student when I took a small seminar course on Indigenous media. I was enthralled to learn of the Kayapó’s long-standing engagement with media, which challenged my own preconceived notions of Indigenous peoples. I consequently asked myself the following question: how are Indigenous people in the Amazon able to engage in media-making practices if they live in the jungle? Though this question expressed my own ignorance about the rich textures that make up contemporary life for the Kayapó people, it lead me to a year-long stay with the Kayapó community of A’Ukre (July 2015-2016), where I conducted my doctoral research, which aimed to facilitate the media appropriation of Kayapó men and women.

Like my undergraduate student self, many people hold outdated and erroneous opinions about Indigenous peoples. Oftentimes, opinions about the ways Indigenous peoples live, or should live, are founded on popular but inaccurate and damaging representations that fail to capture the complexity and diversity of Indigenous peoples’s lives. To begin to make sense of the enduring stubbornness of these negative stereotypes, it is helpful to consider who has the power to create and propagate such representations through their circulation via popular outlets such as photography, films, literature, sports mascots, history, textbooks, and the news, Crucially, these ‘mainstream’ types of representations are created by non-Indigenous peoples often unaffiliated with the subjects they’re portraying. Throughout my doctoral research, I came to realize that the best way to combat such imaging and imagining of Indigenous peoples - in addition challenging naïve notions of a people remotely located and separated from “the modern world” - is through aiding in the facilitation of Inidgenous self-representation via multimedia technologies.

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The power of Indigenous media cannot be denied. I remember the incredible moment when I first encountered Indigenous-authored media; it opened my eyes to contemporary Indigenous issues and the untiring activism of Indigenous peoples worldwide. When I traveled to A’Ukre in 2015, I knew I would be supporting this type of effort and, more specifically, the Kayapó initiative to cultivate local media-making efforts. Indigenous peoples are familiar with the power of representation, and through their activism they continue to fight for the right to represent themselves and their communities in light of constant threats to their lands and their ways of life.

At A’Ukre, an initiative toward self-representation in digital media is currently underway with the Self Determination in a Digital Age project, a partnership between Dr. Laura Zanotti, Dr. Diego Soares da Silveria, the Kayapó NGO Protected Forest Association (AFP), and the community of A’Ukre. Thus far, the Self Determination project has trained a cohort of Kayapó men and women in media making and digital production, including technical training in audiovisual production in partnership with the NGO Video in the Villages, and with general technical training that I was able to facilitate during my stay in the village.

Since then, the men and women’s filmmaking cohorts of A’Ukre have accomplished great things. They have filmed traditional Kayapó ceremonies and rites like Bemp, a naming ceremony, and Mekrakarare, a ceremony that marks a woman’s passage to motherhood. Other social events that take place in the village have also been filmed, including the gathering of forest foods, men’s fishing expeditions, social dances of Kayapó youth, sport competitions, traditional body painting, and political meetings. Videos of these events are projected for the community to enjoy in a projector system that was furnished as part of the Self Determination project. In just two years since the media center was erected at A’Ukre, two village filmmakers were accepted to two film festivals: the 2016 Aldeia SP Bienal de Cinema Indígena in São Paulo, Brazil and the Smithsonian 2018 Mother Tongue Film Festival in Washington, D.C. We extend our congratulations to them and look forward to viewing and celebrating their future work.

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With such great successes, there also came great challenges for the filmmaking collective. Environmental factors like heat, humidity, dust, and insects caused technological equipment to malfunction or be rendered completely unusable. The filmmaking team needs financial support to travel outside of the village to showcase their work. Even in the village, the filmmakers struggled with meticulously rationing the gasoline that powered the community projector. Despite these energy-related and environmental challenges, A’Ukre filmmakers continue their untiring efforts to create and share their digital media. And yet, the community understands the need to create long-term sustainability for the media center. The community has partnered with the Purdue Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program to address technical issues like computer virus prevention, solar power, and energy recommendations. As the community forges forward with their vision for the media center, they envision the media center as a space for filmmakers, students, and community members to engage with media making and other digital activities.

In addition to creating, sharing, and storing Kayapó media, community members also want to learn the basics of modern technologies, including how to touch-type, create documents, make presentations and slideshows on Powerpoint, connect to the internet, speak to other Kayapó and non-Kayapó over social media, connect digitally to other Kayapó communities, and learn more about the types of multimedia possibilities that are available both offline and online. They’ve expressed a keen interest in harnessing the power of technology to not only represent themselves through their own media, but to be able to expertly engage with the world around them through digital forms. As global interactions become increasingly mediated through digital means, the Kayapó understand that the power of digital media includes the ability to share opinions, interact with others, and to use digital spaces as platforms from which to express themselves. To do so, they require the infrastructure and professional tools and equipment to support their ongoing media-making efforts.

We encourage you to show your support of the media-making initiative by contributing towards equipment purchases that will continue to support state of the art and cutting edge indigenous media making in the heart of the Amazon by the peoples who have long fought for and called the region their home.

Purdue EPICS Brazil Team: Engineering The Kôkôjagõti Media Center

A Guest Post by Purdue Alumnus Kaitlin Harris, Anthropologist and Environmental and Ecological Engineer

A blog that features news about the people and stories behind the filmmaking initiatives and filmmakers who are part of Kôkôjagõti, a Kayapó-Mebêngôkre media center and collective in the Brazilian Amazon.

From left to right: Kôkôjagõti banner during the media center's inaugural opening; front angle of media center; computer use in media center; blog author Kaitlin Harris working with equipment. 


Established at Purdue University in 1995, EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service) is a service-learning program that engages engineering students with local, national, and international communities to create solutions to community-identified problems. The program supports a student lead classroom where over thirty undergraduate teams work on multi-semester projects with faculty advisors, community partners, and peers from different disciplines. Taking a human-centered approach, the EPICS design process aims to keep community partners’ needs at the forefront of design ideation, purpose, and reiteration.

The Kôkôjagõti Project became a part of EPICS’s Global Alternative Power Solutions (GAPS) Brazil team in the spring of 2015. The long term goal of the EPICS GAPS Brazil team is to partner with A’Ukre in coordination with the Protected Forest Association (Associação Floresta Protegida [AFP]) and Federal University of Uberlândia (UFU) to help equip and support a sustainable media center system, including programming a flexible operating system for six computers. Through this, the team was able to support the A’Ukre community, help expand its technological capacities, and aid its movement towards media sovereignty. Over the past two years the GAPS Brazil team has worked on a prototype hardware and software system, and virus and solar power troubleshooting. It has additionally conducted research investigations into solar, virus, and storage options, knowledge sharing, and various design projects to support the Kôkôjagõti center’s filmmakers and the community as a whole. The team is advised by Purdue professors Dr. Laura Zanotti, Dr. Bill Oaks, Dr. Jeff Gray. Dr. Diego Soares (UFU) serves as the Brazilian co-adviser. Purdue anthropology PhD student Ingrid Ramón Parra also provides guidance and support as a project research assistant, having conducted her doctoral work in A’Ukre.

EPICS GAPS Brazil team members began the project by asking, “What are the possibilities for a Kayapó media center in the Brazilian Amazon?” The team imaged and explored what a media center could look like, what it would need, how it would be powered, and who would use it. During this time, it was vital for team members to understand the context and importance of the media center in A’Ukre. Student participation in the yearly field course led by Zanotti and Soares was essential for informing decisions and fostering understanding on the Brazil team with students who were spatially removed from A’Ukre.

Team members’ individual research on Kayapó culture raised concerns as to how the Kayapó are portrayed through the world’s media lens. These were brought to the forefront of team discussions and opened the door for conversations surrounding ethics and practice. Viewing ethics from both engineering and anthropological perspectives, the team was able to identify past exploitation of Kayapó images and unwanted image circulation. Learning about the history of Kayapó digital activism, the importance of cultural heritage, and how these support Kayapó livelihoods created a foundation for design decisions in the first semester. Team discussions changed how students thought of the media center, clarified the need for the media center’s technology to be designed in a way that focused on user autonomy and that would allow users to protect and control community images.

One of the major challenges the EPICS Brazil team faced was fusing two operating systems together in order to optimize the Kayapó filmmaker and community use of the media center’s six computers. As the team conducted their research, it became evident that choosing an operating system would be an important decision that would directly impact the future independence or reliance of the media center. For example, using a Windows or Apple operating system would mean the media center would be subject to costly updates, prescribed software, and lack of collaboration across platforms. To avoid these issues, the team decided that they needed to provide the center with a unique, flexible, and adaptable operating system while still maintaining known computer software. In the end, the computers were partitioned to use both Windows and Linux operating systems. The team decided that familiarity of Windows programs mixed with Linux’s flexibility of free media software and updates, system adaptability and customization, and a strong resistance to computer viruses would be ideal for individual filmmaker and community use. The computers were transported to A’Ukre in July of 2015 and served as the prototype hardware system for ten filmmakers in the community. The EPICS team then reconvened in August 2015 to focus on a new set of design questions for the upcoming year: How might we design anti-virus updates without constant access to internet updates? How might the media equipment and space be sustainably powered? How can the media center manage the challenge of digital space?

Serving as project manager for three semesters and traveling to A’Ukre in the summers of 2014 - 2016 were some of the most extraordinary and important moments of my time at Purdue. As a part of the EPICS team that was able to see our work implemented in A’Ukre, I received an immense amount of guidance and experience in putting a community’s needs and perspectives at the forefront of design while integrating anthropological methods into an engineering team's process. These experiences impressed upon me the importance of pursuing simultaneous degrees in anthropology and environmental and ecological engineering. The success of Kôkôjagõti has strengthened my understanding in creating sustainable projects through diverse collaboration, long-term partnerships, knowledge sharing, and through a holistic understanding of place and community.

It is often difficult to explain the most wonderful and unique experience of being in A’Ukre. I am forever changed and grateful to have taken part in this intricate web of people and spaces. A’Ukre is a place made extraordinary not only by the surrounding environment but by the Kayapó who repeatedly welcomed us into their home. I would not have experienced such rich relationships and learning if it had not been for the community-researcher-student network that serves as the foundation for the EPICS program and Dr. Zanotti’s field course. The opportunity granted me to through EPICS to continue working with this specific Kayapó community, despite the thousands of miles between Indiana and Brazil, was a daily and joyful reminder of the agency I had as a student and individual to support and think about my friends in A’Ukre.

From left to right: forest canopy around A'Ukre; community work tools; Kayapó adult applying tribal paint to child; carving a canoe  

Kaitlin Harris is trained as an environmental engineer, and anthropologist at Purdue University. Kaitlin is passionate about indigenous rights, environmental justice, and mitigating the impact of climate change on livelihoods. She has worked with interdisciplinary design teams on community projects in one Kayapó community in the Brazilian Amazon and collaborated on research teams in the U.S., Brazil, and Switzerland. She is currently working in Chicago, learning Portuguese, and trying to do some good in the world.

Sharing the Digital Media Initiative

Kayapó Leaders and Filmmakers Visit the United States

A blog that features news about the people and stories behind the filmmaking initiatives and filmmakers who are part of Kôkôjagõti, a Kayapó-Mebêngôkre media center and collective in the Brazilian Amazon.

Since the late twentieth century, Latin America’s Indigenous Peoples have engaged with digital and multimedia genres as a form of intercommunication, personal and creative expression, and environmental and political activism. As early adopters of media and film technologies, the Kayapó Peoples have long been cognizant of the aesthetic, cultural, and activist possibilities these mediums offer. While enabling the documentation and archiving of indigenous lifeways for present and future generations, digital forms of expression additionally serve as political tools with which to advocate for cultural sovereignty and support the Kayapó’s self-determination efforts within and beyond Brazilian borders.

In the spirit of sharing how the Kayapó Peoples have been working with media technologies, four Kayapó spokespersons – a tribal leader, a musician, and two filmmakers – were invited to speak and perform at the March 2017 InDigital Conference on Indigenous Media in Latin America at Vanderbilt University. While en route to the InDigital conference, the Kayapó delegation visited five different universities in the United States, including Purdue University, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Middle Tennessee University, Florida State University, and University of South Florida. At each institution, they screened selections of their film work, displayed their photography collections, performed Kayapó songs, and initiated discussions about the history and future of indigenous media making. The delegration was accompanied by translators and members of The Kôkôjagõti Project, specifically the project’s two co-founders and long-time Kayapó collaborators Laura Zanotti, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Purdue University, and Diego Soares da Silveira, Professor at the Institute of Social Sciences at the Federal University of Uberlândia as well as Ingrid Ramón Parra, Graduate Student in the Department of Anthropology. Richard Pace, Professor at Middle Tennessee State University, and Glenn Shepard, Anthropologist at the Museu Goeldi also were hosts and organizers of the events.

Purdue University was honored to host two evening events in which Kayapó media presentations were exhibited. A discussion of the impetus and creation behind Kayapó documentaries was held on March 6th in Krannert Auditorium and hosted by the Native American Education and Cultural Center. This event was followed by a film screening of a Kayapó naming ceremony before the evening closed in a traditional ceremonial song and a lively question-and-answer session. On March 7th, Purdue University’s Center for the Environment, Department of Anthropology and College of Liberal Arts hosted a reception – “An Evening with Kayapó and Mebengokre Leaders and Artists” – that included a photo exhibit of Kayapó community life, a presentation of Kayapó handicrafts that were available for purchase (including beaded bracelets, necklaces, earrings, belts, artisanal war clubs, and artisanal baskets), and further opportunity to dialogue with the Kayapó guests. In addition to these public gatherings, the Kayapó visited classrooms, and held a lunch reception with alumni from Dr. Zanotti’s annual Purdue summer study abroad course to Brazil, in which students visit a Kayapó village and learn about the sustainability obstacles and opportunities that lie ahead for the Brazilian Amazon from anthropologists, tropical biologists, Kayapó instructors

Directly following their visit to Purdue, the Kayapó traveled invited speakers to the 2017 InDigital Latin American Conference. Co-hosted by Vanderbilt University and Middle Tennessee State University, the conference included three days of individual papers, roundtable discussions, short films, and musical performances that explored indigenous media and its confluence with indigenous cosmologies. The conference began with a reception and an evening concert that featured three distinct Latin American musical performances. As one of the featured musicians, Kayapó singer-songwriter Pykatire Kayapó kicked off the concert with an eclectic performance. Inspired by traditional Kayapó music and non-indigenous Brazilian rhythms and beats, Pykatire has recently received acclaim for producing “Kayapó Pop,” a mixture of Kayapó lyrics with regional forró, brega and sertaneja dance and musical styles. Pykatire also performed during a session in which the Kayapó group engaged with the InDigital community in a roundtable discussion about their photography, their film projects, and the role these mediums play in their communities.

Are you interested in contributing to The Kôkôjagõti Project? One of the major aims of The Kôkôjagõti Project is to generate the funds necessary to ensure that Kayapó leaders and artists can continue to travel abroad to participate in conferences such as InDigital, experience the reception of their work, become inspired, and have the opportunity to engage in dialogue with students and researchers interested in digital media, the struggle for indigenous sovereignty, and Kayapó aesthetics. We are currently hard at work setting up our Paypal account. In the meantime, however, if you’re interested in contributing to The Kôkôjagõti Project please email Dr. Laura Zanotti at lzanotti@purdue.edu to find out how you can securely donate.

Are you interested in tuning into the media-making discussion? Contact The Kôkôjagõti Project at kokojagotiproject@gmail.com for further information about upcoming Kayapó talks, Pykatire’s music, or even for where to purchase Kayapó handicrafts or learn about the study abroad course!

A Kôkôjagõti Blog

News From An A'Ukre Media Initiative

A blog that features news about the people and stories behind the filmmaking initiatives and filmmakers who are part of Kôkôjagõti, a Kayapó-Mebêngôkre media center and collective in the Brazilian Amazon.

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Welcome to The Kôkôjagõti Project

In 2012, a study abroad course jointly run between the Federal University of Uberlândia (UFU) and Purdue University in cooperation with the Associação Floresta Protediga worked with the village of A’Ukre, a Kayapó-Mẽbêngôkre community in the central Brazilian Amazon to host students and faculty for two weeks.  Based on ongoing discussions about media making in the community, at the end of the 2012 trip culminated in the launch of a collaborative, transdisciplinary research project. At the heart of this project was the building and supplying of a sustainable media center (Kôkôjagõti) in A’Ukre that would partner with the Kayapó to document and digitally archive cultural practices through film, music, and images. Intended to support Kayapó cultural sovereignty through the enabling of digital activism, the media center was co-imagined as a setting that would enable collaborative and individual work and would include computers and miscellaneous technologies – i.e. video cameras and microphones – that A’Ukre filmmakers could use to document aspects of community life. By 2013, several A’Ukre filmmakers had been identified as project participants, and the construction of a media center was announced to be a top community priority.

Numbering upwards of eight thousand members, the Kayapó-Mẽbêngôkre peoples are one of hundreds of indigenous communities inhabiting the Brazilian Amazon who, in their fight to survive changes that threaten their territory and lifestyles, have engaged in environmental and political activism in addition to forming partnerships with corporations, researchers, and non-governmental organizations. The Kôkôjagõti Project is envisioned by A’Ukre, a community of more than three hundred and fifty members, to be a long-term partnership. The project’s goal is simple: to support the Kayapó-Mẽbêngôkre people's’ ongoing efforts to ensure self-determination at a historical moment in which indigenous lifeways are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and defend in the face of many challenges.

In February 2016, The Kôkôjagõti Project saw the successful construction of A’Ukre’s media center with a generous donation from Thomas Moran. Then powered by two solar energy panels and inclusive of a media area, storage closets, and work spaces, the center currently houses six cameras and six computers equipped with software and hardware for filmmaking. Informed by the Kayapó filmmakers and previous work conducted at UFU, the prototype software was specifically engineered for the media center by a student team from Purdue University’s Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) group. Designed to protect from computer viruses, adaptable system design, and easy access to free programs and software, the media center’s software is the best available for a no internet and no electricity environment. By the arrival of the media center’s six-month anniversary, over forty films documenting Kayapó culture have been produced by the all-Kayapó filmmaking collaborative.

The Kôkôjagõti Project currently seeks donations to help continue the creation of the Kayapó-Mẽbêngôkre people’s’ digital archive. Funding would be used to:

  1. Construct a local capacity building for filmmaking workshops and pre- to post-production editing;
  2. Support Kayapó filmmakers in their travels to film, exhibit, and discuss their work, whether domestically or internationally;
  3. Purchase the necessary equipment and materials to sustain the filmmaking needs of the Kayapó media team;
  4. Help maintain the media center’s sustainable energy and infrastructure.

While this blog will function as the project’s first web-based presence, providing donors and interested readers alike with project updates and exciting news, team members are currently hard at work designing an official website, networking with potential sponsors, and liaising with the Kayapó in order to advance the project. The members of The Kôkôjagõti Project are very excited to begin what will prove to be a joyful endeavor and hope you will join us in our dedication to achieve the goal of realizing the Kayapó-Mẽbêngôkre people’s’ mediamaking initiatives.

Mejkumrej. Thank you.