April 16-28, 2020
Boa Vista Village, Rio Jordão
Acre state, Amazon Rainforest, Brazil
The Huni Kuin Gathering is an annual festival from the Huni Kuin people of the Jordão River in the state of Acre, Amazon, Brazil. It is organized by the leaders of the Yube Inu Institute and their non-indigenous partners. Together we seek to strengthen the bonds between the villages, promote traditional culture and the exchange of experiences and knowledge between generations.
In addition to a moment of unity and cultural empowerment, the festival is a spiritual event where we pray for the forest and humanity. Each year we gather elders and young medicine men and women from the region to conduct the healing work, leading the ceremonies and other spiritual activities.
Your destination is the Boa Vista Village, located in the Kaxinawá Indigenous Land of the Jordão River, approximately 06 hours by motorized canoe from the nearest city, Jordão. The only access to the region is by boat or plane, being considered one of the most isolated and hard to reach areas in Brazil.
In recent years, the Huni Kuin have opened their villages to welcome non-indigenous visitors and share their way of life, their identity and spirituality. In the last editions of our festival, we had the honor of receiving an average of 400 indigenous from around 14 villages of the Jordão, Tarauacá and Humaitá Indigenous Lands, as well as Nawa (foreigners) from 20 different nationalities.
The Amazon Rainforest is the largest reserve of medicinal plants in the world. Until today, traditional medicine remains the primary healthcare system in the Huni Kuin communities.
The Huni Kuin people safeguard a broad knowledge of the local flora through a highly structured system of plant classification. Many plant species are used as medicines for multiple ailments, a knowledge that has been handed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years and is now beginning to be acknowledged by the rest of the world.
Spirituality and medicines
The Huni Kuin's spirituality and medicinal plants knowledge are part of an extensive and mysterious traditional wisdom that endures to the present day.
The festival is an opportunity to delve deeper into the jungle and better understand the connection between the Huni Kuin and the plant medicines. At this time, we will be under the guidance of experienced medicine men and women during the spiritual works with Nixi Pae (ayahuasca) and other activities involving medicines.
The story "Huã Karu Yuxibu" tells about the emergence of medicinal plants.
Source: Videogame Huni Kuin: Yube Baitana (os caminhos da jiboia), oficina de audiovisual "Cantos, desenhos e histórias do povo Huni Kuin", Jordão, Acre, 2015.
Narration: Dua Busẽ (Manoel Vandique).
The word "nixi" in hãtxa kui (Huni Kuin language) means vine and "pae" is translated as strong.
Nixi Pae is the name of the spiritual brew known as ayahuasca, prepared with two sacred plants - the bark of vine Huni (Caapi, Banisteriopsis caapi) and the leaves of Kawa (Chacruna, Psychotria viridis). This medicine is consecrated during a traditional healing ritual and can be used for different purposes such as personal transformation, protection, cleansing, spiritual growth and strengthening of the body and spirit.
Legally, Nixi Pae in Brazil can be used by indigenous tribes for religious and spiritual purposes. The ceremony is supervised and mediated by experienced elders and spiritual leaders (“shamans”) who understand intimately the medicine.
As reported by the elders, this medicine came from the Yube (Boa constrictor snake) underwater world and its use goes back to distant times where humans, plants and enchanted beings coexisted and interacted with each other. The Txana (medicine chanter) and Dauya (plant medicine healer) conduct a Nixi Pae ritual singing the Huni Meka chants ("strong vine" songs).
Firstly, a moment of deep concentration and visionary meditation where the medicine men perform traditional chants in order to draw strength (pae txanima / yube txanima), bring visions (dautibuya) and lower the pressure/force (kayatibu). The second part of the ceremonies is marked by joy and movement with dances around the fire and songs played with guitars, drums and maracás. During an ceremony, participants can experience a wide variety of effects that inspire physical, mental, emotional and spiritual revelations and healings.
Rapé snuff (dume deshke) is a medicine used in the nasal passages, made of tobacco and ash from trees such as Kumã (Cumaru, Dipteryx odorata), Yapa (Murici, Byrsonima crassifolia), Xiwe mapu (Pau-pereira, canela-de-velho, Platycyamus regnellii).
The rapé is used between two people with an instrument called tepi or with a self-applicator known as kuripe. It is commonly used for cleansing and strengthening body, mind and soul, clearing thoughts and repelling weaknesses, evil spirits and other ills.
Shane tsamati or Sananga (Tabernaemontana sananho) is a medicinal plant used in the form of eye drops. From the root bark of the Sananga is extracted a juice that is dripped into the eyes, sometimes using the claw of a Harpy eagle, great hunter with sharp eyesight. It brings a strong stinging sensation that usually lasts a few minutes.
Sananga removes panema (bad luck/energies), strengthens and brightens vision, and brings luck during hunting. When a man uses Sananga to go hunting, he must kill only big animals, never small ones, otherwise he will lose all his luck.
Kãpun or Kambo is a medicine that comes from the venomous secretion of the frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor), native to Brazil and used by various Amazonian indigenous peoples for centuries. This powerful and purgative vaccine is applied via skin burns and acts through the bloodstream leading to health and wellness benefits.
It is used to deeply cleanse the body and strengthen the immune system, remove laziness and indisposition. The cleansing process is the guarantee that medicine is acting and bringing good health. Kambo is believed to remove negative energy and it is also used to sharpen the senses and bring luck in hunting.
After application, it is necessary to follow a specific diet with abstinence of sex. meat, sweets (includes most fruits) and salt. According to the elders, those who do not follow the diet lose the long-term effects (immunization, strengthening) provided by the frog medicine.
The word "Nisun" means weakness or dizziness and "dau" is translated as medicine.
There are hundreds of medicinal plants known to the Huni Kuin, an extensive knowledge that has been passed down orally for generations. These plants are collected by medicine men and women in the forest, or in their "medicinal gardens" a special area of forest close from the villages where they cultivate the most used plants.
Medicinal plants are used to treat the spiritual origins of disease as well as the physical symptoms. There are plants for protection, to become a hard-worker, to cure specific illnesses, ward off bad energies and laziness, have a good memory, and many other. Each plant has a name, category, a form of preparation and use.
Medicinal baths and smudging sessions are the most fundamental healing and preventive health practices for the Huni Kuin people. During the festival, Dauya (plant medicine healer) collect and prepare the leaves of various medicines, using on average 50-80 different species. These medicines are used to smudge and bath everyone attending the festival.
∙ Hike through the forest to the Samauma Park, medicinal gardens and other healing spaces.
∙ Healing songs circles.
∙ Introduction to local medicinal practices.
∙ Baths and smudging with medicinal herbs.
∙ Nixi Pae (ayahuasca) ceremonies.
∙ Application of medicinal eye drops Sananga and Bawe.
∙ Application of Kãpun vaccine.
∙ Dume deshke (rapé) circles.
∙ Preparation of Ayahuasca and Rapé.
∙ Other traditional medicinal practices.
∙ Direct contact with medicine men/women.
After years of repression the Huni Kuin people live a time of cultural empowerment.
It is an honor to gather elders from villages in the region, true living books, responsible for transmitting all oral and practical tradition to the youth.
The Huni Kuin people, for hundreds of generations, convey their extensive oral and practical knowledge. Despite periods of persecution, extermination and slavery, much of the knowledge could be preserved to this day thanks to the determination and courage of the elders.
It is in the oral tradition that the deepest cultural identity of a people is based. Oral culture preserves not only myths, tales, songs and prayers, but also practical knowledge needed for survival such as making utensils, recognizing plants and producing food.
Moreover, it is through orality that the language and history of the people are preserved, guaranteeing to the new generations the knowledge of their ancestors.
Geometric patterns that reflect Huni Kuin's culture and cosmology. It is a feminine art that can communicate for example the clan to which the person belongs or be used to acquire certain aspect or characteristic of a animal or plant. Women apply the standards in body painting, weaving, pottery, basketry and beadwork.
Body painting uses natural inks from fruits and conveys fundamental messages about Huni Kuin cosmology, myths, identity and culture. The most used are prepared through Nane (Jenipapo, Genipa Americana) and Mashe (Urucum, Bixa orellana).
Nane ink is made from green Jenipapo, from which a blue-black juice is extracted, what turns black on contact with the skin. This ink has great durability on the skin (up to two weeks) and brings protection and strength.
The one made with Mashe is extracted from its seeds, which have the color red or orange. It can be used fresh or cooked until it forms a dense pasty paint. The Urucum has the function of protecting people from the yuxin (forest spirits) and is therefore very important in ceremonies.
Huni Kuin women preserve the ancient craft of ceramics and work almost always together, from getting the clay to burning the pieces. The most common objects are kitchen utensils and large pots to produce mabesh pae (strong caiçuma), a fermented cassava drink.
Weaving is one of the oldest forms of manual art present in many cultures through different techniques and materials. In Huni Kuin culture the art of spinning and weaving was taught by Basnen Puru, the Enchanted Spider, who took pity on women who had no clothes to wear and taught them how to spin cotton to make clothes and hammocks. The most common items are wrap slings, waistcoats, sãputari (traditional men's dress), skirts, bands, bags, hammocks, etc.
The art of basket weaving is another everyday practice. The elders masters of this craft do everything very quickly and skillfully, interweaving the wefts (horizontal elements) and warps (vertical elements) to form the kene (design) in the pieces. They produce baskets to keep feathers, seeds, trash bins and mats for women to sit on.
The women began to use beads between the 1980s and 1990s and soon they became outstanding in the art of using the traditional designs in bead jewelry. In this process the beads were incorporated into local worldview and related to ancient stories. The pieces are usually produced by women, who dominate the art of Kene. Bead by bead they draw the intricate forms of ancestral patterns, related to spirits and elements of nature.
Arts and Handicraft Fair
During the event local artisans exhibit their art crafts. The village fills with colors and shapes and it is possible to know the diversity of items produced in the forest. The element of the fair is beauty, found in necklaces, bracelets, rings, bands, bags, clothes, earrings and weaving. We also have archery, pottery, basketry, and other items.
This is the time to encourage local economy and artisanal production, as well as being able to haux-up yourself and buy gifts and souvenirs from the jungle.