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 firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can securely donate.
Are you interested in tuning into the media-making discussion? Contact The Kôkôjagõti Project at email@example.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!