Full Project Proposal for "Yaw i'an"



 CNPJ: 07.310.820/0001-   


   Project of the Trumai indigenous people :

Project « Yaw i'an »

 To film, to record, to edit and to recover the rituals of the Trumai people

"Yaw i'an", in the Trumai language, signifies : image, shadow, but also a small person which each one has within one's eyes and which from there goes away on the day of death.


1.  Introduction

This project was elaborated by representatives of the Trumai people, an indigenous group which lives in the Xingu reserve, in the state of Mato Grosso (Central regino of Brazil). With some help, e are aiming to develop activities of recovering and documenting the cultural traditions of our people, through films and video production. These activities will also have an impact on the teaching of the indigenous tradition in the schools of the villages. There is also the idea of showing and affirming the Trumai culture and of expressing it for ourselves and for others. This project is engaging towards keeping our threatened culture alive. 

The project will be developped by the Trumai community, more specifically : the villages of Boa Esperança, Cristalina, Steinen, and the Trumai families of the city of Canarana. The project will rely on the support of the Hopep Association, which will be responsible for administrating the grant and the expenditures of the project, as well as for making the reports and administrating the ressourses. In section 10, the Hopep Association is described with more details.

Please find here the following documents :

  • The project
  • Copy of the statute of the Hopep Association


2. The Trumai people :  presentation

Speakers of an isolated language which does not belong to none of Brazil's big linguistic families (Jê, Tupi, Karib, Aruak), the Trumai were the last ones to arrive in the cultural complex of the Upper Xingu, more than 150 years ago. They remember until today some aspects of the material culture they had before they moved to the area : the men used long hair and tied up their penis, the women used a special sash made of embira, they did not sleep in hammocks but on mats on the floor, and used the propulsor of arrows instead of the arch, to mention rapidly the most visible differences in relation to the other upper-xinguan groups. However, the arrival in the Upper Xingu did not generate a simple loss of the anterior culture, but rather an exchange. The Trumai learned new customs with the xinguan peoples, and at the same time taught them some of their traditions. For example, the Javari, one of the most important intertribal festivity of the area, was brought by the Trumai, which called it Hopep.

Today the Trumai people is divided into three villages : Boa Esperança, Steinen and Cristalina, and, recently, Mukuretep. There are also Trumai families living in Canarana, a city close to the Xingu reserve. Eventually there are some families living in other localities of the reserve, such as Posto Leonardo and Terra Nova, besides individuals who, through marriages, went to live away in the villages of other groups.

The situation of the Trumai language and of the knowledge called traditional is quite worrying at this very moment. Although the oldest persons still use the language, the children understand but do not speak Trumai. The fact that the families are dispersed in various localities complicates the situation, since it impedes the occurrence of frequent festivities and  rituals, indispensable for the transmission of the traditional music and chants to the new generation. Some festivities have already been lost, such as, for example, the Manioc Feast (Ole Deani), while others subsist only in the memory of only one individual. This situation produces an acute feeling of lost in the Trumai community.


3. How to recover the Trumai rituals in the present context ?

In the face of the present picture, it is necessary to react urgently. The elders of the community still know how to sing and can teach the traditional dances and songs to the younger. It is essential to transmit this knowledge before it is too late. As already mentioned, the dispersion of the group prevents this to be made as it was the case in the past, through frequent festivities or through inter-individual contracts. The singer, in exchange of a payment of gifts of great value, taught during several months the musics he knew to the interested youth. However, the distance existing nowadays between the members of the group prevents such a procedure. Then the Trumai community would like to film and record what has not yet been lost, in order that the material thus collected could be used in future projects and educational activities (there exist schools in the villages), so that this knowledge essential to the construction of the Trumai identity could be transmitted to the next generations.

Some informal records have already been realised, with or without the collaboration of researchers who work with the group. Nevertheless, they present certain problems.

A) The records made only by us, the Trumai :

The major problem with these records is the lack of resources. An adequate equipment is indispensable for a good record. Without it, the quality of the image or of the sound remains far from our expectations; not to reproduce well the songs impedes whatever application away from the domestic or individual use. Then we need to acquire good equipments to do our recording and filming. We also need resources for the travel expenses, between the various places where the singers live : the city of Canarana, the villages Boa Esperança, Cristalina and Steinen, the Posto Leonardo (where lives a Trumai family), etc. In general, a return journey between Canarana and the Steinen village costs about 1000 R$.

B) The records made with the collaboration of researchers :

Although the technical quality is better, the audio records or the films made by researchers are fragmentary. A ritual music is truly a succession of sequences, which are sung in a determinate order. In order to learn entirely a ritual in listening to a tape, it is necessary to record it from beginning to end, without exchanging the position of each sequence. But the major problem of the records made by external initiatives is exactly this : they are not made by us. The researchers visit us only during a certain period of time, record a little and then go away. The equipment does not stay with us, since the researchers have to return it to the university or institution for which they work. Then we remain without the possibility to conclude the work according to our ideas. We also remain without the possibility to use the equipments to develop other projects, such as for example, produce cultural films or record CDs and DVDs in order to archive the knowledge which is being lost.

Therefore, in a general way, there is a need for equipments and structures of good quality, to guarantee the Trumai community the control of its image and the autonomy, at long term, in the production of films and audio CDs. The materials produced could be used as educational material in the transmission of the elements of the culture which are disappearing, or could even be sold, generating resources to develop other future projects.


4. The project's proposal

There are various musics and festivities which are part of the cultural tradition of the Trumai people. Some are still performed, others subsist solely in the memory of elder individuals. The principal rituals are :

Hopep (also known as Javari Feast)

Tawarawana (feast where men cover themselves with leaves and dance in circle)

Kut (feast of the Jacui flute)

Uriuri (feast of the whistler)

Ole wal (Manioc Feast)

Yamurikuma (Women's Feast)

Takwara (feast and dance made with the takwara flutes)

Turu'a (feast of a spirit man of the water)

Fapt¸ ï fatlak wal (feast of the piercing of the ears, ritual of the boys' initiation).

The ideal would be that all the rituals above-mentioned be recorded and filmed, in order to be preserved for the future. At long term, it is this in fact our goal. Yet, for this project here, we decide to dedicate ourselves only to some of these rituals, because of budget and time schedule. A project to document all the festivities would be too expensive and long. Then we decide to do first a « pilot project », which is what we are presenting here. This project would consist of filming and editing only four rituals : the Hopep, known in the area as Javari, the music of the Takwara flutes, the piercing of the ears Fapt¸ ï fatlak wal, and the women's festivity, Yamurikuma. Moreover, we would also develop different ways to tell the same story, and in the long term, think about making more creative or artistic films.

To reach this goal, we endeavour to acquire a work premise (a house) and organise an audio and video edition studio in Canarana. The studio would be the property of the Trumai community which participates in this project (Boa Esperança, Cristalina, Steinen, Mukuretep and the Trumai families of Canarana), and could be used without restrictions by all the Trumai who belong to the places mentioned. Some members of the community would be chosen to care for the maintenance and order of the premises. The studio would have as a finality to allow the Trumai community to entirely control its image, and independently develop projects of films and audio CDs production.

Next is a more detailed description of the four rituals chosen for the documentation.

a) Hopep

The Hopep is particularly important to our community, considering the fact that it was our ancestors who brought it to the Xingu, where it spread, being adopted by all the other peoples of the area. It is about a homage made to a man who passed away some months before, a man who was the « master of the arch », which means that he was a respecter player of darts during the Javari festivities in which he participated.

During the preparatory phase of this ritual, which can last more than three months, the musics of the festivity are sung daily during several hours. In this phase, the participants respect food as well as behaviour prescriptions. Later, another indigenous group is invited to the festivity, which consists principally of duels of darts between the champions of the two groups. The ritual represents in metaphorical form a war, which can inclusively evoke feelings not always friendly. According to the oral memory of our group, the Hopep was taught to the Trumai by the Payetan, a people who spoke a language similar to ours, but which hasn't been identified or reencountered since then.

b) Takwara

Among the festivities of the Upper Xingu, the Takwara is the most frequently realised, being conceived just to enliven the village. Four or five men, accompanied by their feminine partners, dance from house to house, while each one is playing a long flute made of bamboo. This ritual is the least threatened in the case of the Trumai, considering that for the time being the majority of the men above thirty years of age still know its musics. But this is not the case for the new generation, which needs a systematic teaching. Then, it is important to recover and revitalize the ritual of the Takwara.

c) Yamurikuma

This festivity plays a central role in the relations between the sexes in the upper-xinguan area, since it inverts them temporarily : the women, adorned like men, dance and sing alone, without their participation. Moreover, the majority of the songs reproduce the musics of the Jakuí flutes ("Kut wal" in Trumai), a festivity exclusively masculine. Whichever man arriving from another village on the day of the festivity be pursued by the women ; if he is overtaken, he will be bitten and covered with murukuyu, a variety of urucum used only by the women.

In the case of the Trumai, only the elderly women know the songs. Unhappily they live far from each other, which prevents them from practicing the songs frequently. It is necessary to reunite these various sources of knowledge, to record the totality of the musics of this festivity.

c) Fapt¸ ï fatlak wal

When the majority of the families have one or several sons between 5 and 15 years of age, the ritual of the piercing of the ears ("Fapt¸ ï fatlak" in Trumai) is organized. During approximately one month, two singers sing in the afternoon and at dawn from house to house. The women sing along with them, while the other men go along  with the music with cries of happiness. Then comes the day of the piercing. The boys sit in a row in the village's court, each one facing his "piercer". After the piercing, the boys go through a time of seclusion, whose duration varies from one month to two years, depending on the age and the will of the person.

This festivity last occurred in the Trumai community in 1980, therefore none of the men below 25 years have pierced ears. The Trumai elder who was the traditional singer of this festivity passed away in 1994. Our goal is to try and recover the musics, in order to later organize the ritual again. The son of the last singer has some knowledge of the musics, but does not know the totality of the songs. It would then be necessary to ask for the teaching of a singer from another xinguan group.


5. The project's goals
The principal goals of this project are :

(1) to document through films and records four rituals of the Trumai people ;

(2) to organize an audio and video edition studio in Canarana, in order that the Trumai themselves could produce videos or CDs about the culture of their people.

Beside these general goals, other objectives will be aimed at :

  • Cultural recovery of indigenous traditions.
  • To stimulate the new generations to be proud of their tradition.
  • To ameliorate the teaching of the indigenous tradition in the schools of the Trumai villages.
  • To promote the divulgation of elements of the Trumai culture.
  • To capacitate Trumai youth to film and do video edition.


6. How the work will be done

The project will be conducted in several phases, the main ones are the following :

(i) Purchase of equipment for the documentation.

(ii) Purchase of a premise (a house) in Canarana. Installation of a studio for video and audio edition.

(iii) Realization of films with Trumai persons who live in Canarana.

(iv) Realization of films and records in the Trumai villages, in the Xingu reserve.

(v) Edition of the films.

(vi) Copies of the videos produced will be sent to the Trumai villages, in order to be used in the schools.

(vii) Conclusion of the project. The final report will be elaborated.

During these phases of video filming and editing, a professional technician would be contracted by the project, in order to orientate the work and capacitate some Trumai youth, in a way that they learn to use the equipments and the editing programs. A DVD will be produced, presenting the songs together with an edition of present and old images of the Trumai and of the Xingu reserve. There will also be images of dances. In order to facilitate the apprenticeship, the lyrics of the songs will be transcribed and then subtitled.

This DVD, or its VHS version or even an audio (CD or tape), will be distributed among all the Trumai, in order for them to learn the musics. Another version of the film, would be a documentary to show the Trumai culture to others. The later could also be sold to the general public, to finance future works - but first, this proposal of commercialisation of the DVD will be duly discussed and analyzed by the members of the project, and will only be realized if all agree.


7. Working team

As already mentioned, the project's participants are residents of Boa Esperança, Cristalina Steinen, and Mukuretep, and the Trumai families who live in Canarana. This community as a whole will participate in the work, but generally some individuals will be more actively involved in the project. A working team is established, whose members is assigned particular functions.


8. Time schedule

The project will have a duration of two years (24 months), from the reception of the ressources. During the first year of the project, we will purchase the equipment, purchase and organise the studio in Canarana, learn and teach film technique the youth, and film the Trumai rituals. In the second year, we will document, edit the films, distribute the copies to the community, edit another version to show others, and eventually conclude this project. An estimation of the time needed for each phase is being elaborated, and will depend on the demands and the proceeding of the work.


9. Ressources needed

Among the ressources needed for the realization of the project are the following :

-       furninshed office and working studio

-       equipment for the studio

-       administrative and technical expenditures

-       production expenditures (including payment for the singers)

-        travel exepenses to and from the villages


10. The HOPEP association - Contacts

The HOPEP Association of the Trumai Indians (AHIT, Associação HOPEP dos Índios Trumai) was created in march 2005, and is based in Canarana. Its goal is to promote projects of sustaining development and of cultural recovery within the Trumai community. It is this association which will administrate the resources for this project. Please find in annex a copy of the statute of the association.

At the end of the project, a report will be made, showing how the activities were made and what results were achieved. It will include photos of the studio, of the equipments used and of the production of videos. Regarding the administration of the ressources, the Hopep Association will be responsible to present the receipts and to controle the expenditures made during the realization of the project.


For contacts or more information, the address is :

Associação Hopep dos Índios Trumai (AHIT)

Rua Barra do Garças No. 1046


Canarana - MT

CEP: 78640-000


Email: hoptrumai@hotmail.com



17 February 2010


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