Day 2: Demini, Roraima
I'm washed and dressed by the time the first Yanomami come down to the stream. The young men walk with arms folded, and they greet me with an amused smile. Some of them bid me good morning in Portuguese. Back at the maloca the peccary's found its way in again and is being harried by the dogs. It stands its ground: ugly, surly, but impressively unafraid.
The community seems depleted this morning. I'm told that many of the young men and women are out at the gardens some way away. One or two of the older women have begun to prepare their staple diet. Manioc, or cassava, is one of the oldest cultivated foods known to man but it requires careful preparation as it contains toxic elements. Rendering it safely edible is a laborious and time-consuming process involving peeling, grating, grinding and boiling. When the manioc pulp is ready it's rolled into thin white discs which are thrown up onto the thatched roof to dry.
I'm struck by how well the maloca seems to work. Everything they have is potentially shared. There are no walls behind which things can be hoarded unnoticed. The bond between mothers and children seems particularly strong. Small babies spend most of their time in flesh-to-flesh contact with their mothers and I have hardly heard any of the crying or scolding that we in our enlightened world might take for granted.
There are elders but no bosses in the maloca. Davi, who is their shaman and the spokesman for many Indian tribes, is a man of dignity and a very clear sense of what the future holds. He wears a fine feather headdress for our interview, which begins inauspiciously.
'Davi,' I ask, 'You live here in one of the most remote parts of the world...'
The remainder of my question is drowned out by the sound of an aircraft coming low over the trees. Much laughter. Start again.
'Davi, being so cut off from the rest of the world, do you...'
'Sorry, we'll have to stop,' says Seb, our sound man. He motions upwards. 'Another plane.'
Choose another day from Brazil
- Series: Brazil
- Chapter: Day 2: Demini, Roraima
- Country/sea: Brazil
- Place: Demini, Roraima
- Book page no: 25
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