Workshop allows Brazilian Xakriabá people to publish their own books
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- In the KMÃNÃÃ HÃSUKA (âMaking Booksâ) workshop, the XakriabÃ¡ of central Brazil learned the steps of the publishing process in order to create their own publications; infusing books with an indigenous voice was the goal of the project.
- The XakriabÃ¡, numbering some 9,000 people, are the largest indigenous population in the state of Minas Gerais, living on two indigenous lands to the north.
- Five books will be published this year as a result of the project. Topics include ceremonial chants, oral history, woodworking techniques, and a biography of Chief RodrigÃ£o, one of XakriabÃ¡’s main rulers.
By Matheus Lopes Quirino
This story was produced in collaboration with Mongabay to raise awareness of topics relevant to the upcoming World Landscapes Forum Amazonia digital conferencing: the tipping point (September 21-23, 2021). Join us here.
Chef RodrigÃ£o will soon have a book written about his life. The story, which has been told, illustrated and printed, is in the final stages of production at the publishing house of the XakriabÃ¡ people, the largest indigenous population in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. It comes as they near the end of a project called KMÃNÃÃ HÃSUKA (“Making Books” in the native language XakriabÃ¡), which is expected to release five titles by the end of this year on topics ranging from manual labor to ancestral traditions.
Chief Manoel Gomes de Oliveira, also known as RodrigÃ£o, was one of the main activists of the XakriabÃ¡ people before his death in 2003. He created a council that brings together the leaders of each of the 32 villages in the territory of XakriabÃ¡, which includes two indigenous reserves in the Municipality of SÃ£o JoÃ£o das MissÃµes in northern Minas Gerais. The oldest indigenous reserve, called XakriabÃ¡ Indigenous Land, was not ratified until 1987, the same year their leader Rosalino was assassinated by land grabbers.
The creation of the indigenous land of XakriabÃ¡ was followed by a series of initiatives, such as the pioneering program for the establishment of indigenous schools of Minas Gerais, which was launched in 1997 and now has 34 schools within the reserve, and other cultural projects that led to the creation of an indigenous radio station and a print newspaper.
Now it’s time for books.
âWe have always wanted to work with books. It was great to learn more about the publishing process, especially when we interact with people of different ages, âsays Indigenous teacher Joel XakriabÃ¡, one of the creators of the Publishing Workshop. âWe managed the funding to build our publishing house through a federal law that promotes cultural projects. We’ll print the books right here, âadds Joel.
The workshop was organized by the Ponto de Cultura Loas XakriabÃ¡, a local indigenous-led organization, and brought together participants from villages in the indigenous XakriabÃ¡ land. Discussions focused on the importance of giving books an Aboriginal character.
âAt first, the XakriabÃ¡ were looking for us to find out more about the layout. Our counter-offer was to teach a unit on editorial production, âexplains Felipe Carnevalli, deputy editor-in-chief of the Brazilian publishing house and the editorial platform Piseagrama, which offers editorial support to the project. âThe idea germinated and turned into Make books series of workshops, which became a project that could be repeated in other villages and localities. In the end, what was supposed to be a book turned into five titles.
In a group interview with Mongabay, some of the 12 workshop participants admitted to being eager to complete them. The books are in Portuguese, on subjects including a collection of the Loas, or traditional XakriabÃ¡ wedding songs; âStories and Memoriesâ, which brings together fables from oral tradition; a book on a culturally significant woodworking technique; a book of songs; and the biography of chef RodrigÃ£o.
âI was responsible for the layout of the books, which I had never done before and learned here,â says Kelvis XakriabÃ¡, 13, enthusiastically. During the process of creating “Stories and Memories”, he learned to use Adobe InDesign software and gleaned new knowledge about his culture. Capturing stories transmitted through the word, the book mixes text with illustrations drawn by two high school students from one of the local Indigenous schools. “We came to recognize and remember a lot of things we heard when we were little.”
The Ponto de Cultura organization, headed by Joel XakriabÃ¡, started on reserves in 2010. Since then, it has produced cultural programs bringing together teachers, students and other indigenous people to help preserve the language, culture and the indigenous traditions of the XakriabÃ¡ people.
According to indigenous teacher and linguistics specialist Diana Pereira, transferring oral history to the printed page is an important task for cultural preservation. âI was responsible for analyzing the texts throughout the process to make sure that the traditional ways of speaking and telling stories in our territory were respected,â she says, noting that the cultural exchange that took place is produced during fieldwork to collect stories and create the texts also served as a bridge between the old and the new generation.
Once completed, the books will live in the village school libraries. Joel is also planning to create a website so that people outside of XakriabÃ¡ territory can learn the stories of his people.