Your Basket

Your Basket is Empty


Feature - Issue #14

In Our Bones

Drawing from her book Umbigo do Mundo (Navel of the World), Indigenous anthropologist and researcher Francy Fontes Baniwa presents some of the myths of her people, passed on to her by her father Francisco Luiz Fontes Baniwa, as a way of understanding the contemporary world. Weaving a cosmological tale set in the landscapes of the north-west Amazon, on the border between Brazil and Colombia, she invites us to tune our sensitivity and imagination towards entities, animals, plants, places and events from an ancient time that continue to reverberate today.

In general, in all Indigenous cultures myths emerge as ways of explaining, understanding, and giving meaning to the facts and events of life and the world. Many myths explain the origin of things, whether it be foods, cultural practices, natural phenomena or sacred sites.

These are the cosmogonic myths, transmitted orally from generation to generation, that reinforce our ethnic identity. But they are more than that. From time immemorial, myths describe events that occur in the Indigenous world, where the forest is the concrete, visible, and tangible element.

I’m Francineia Bitencourt Fontes, but my Indigenous name is Hipamaalhe (the sound of the waterfall). I am from the Baniwa people, Waliperedakeenai clan (or Siusi, in Nheengatu), which means ‘grandsons of the seven stars’ (the Pleiades constellation). I am from the community of Assunção do Içana, on the lower Içana River, in the upper Rio Negro Indigenous Land. I was born speaking Nheengatu, like my maternal grandparents, my mother, and my siblings. I learned the Baniwa language while living with my cousins from Ucuqui Cachoeira who, still teenagers, came to study in Assunção and lived in my house.

Along the way I learned many things, and was always proud to be part of a world between worlds, in which we continue to live and understand its meanings. My life is rich in knowledge and wisdom, mainly from my ancestors, transmitted by my parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.

My father is a master of dances, songs, musical instruments, a narrator, healer, and craftsman — who, in turn, learned from his father, uncles, and grandfathers of the Waliperedakeenai and Hohoodeni clans. According to him, his father, Luiz Manoel Fontes, and his maternal uncle, Ricardo Fontes, were the greatest teachers he had of Baniwa narratives and ceremonies. I decided to record his speech and, through his voice, and those of my late grandfathers and uncles, write about the history of my people without the help of an interpreter to explain its meanings.

After each narrative we had a debate to discuss its meaning. Through this process, I learned to sing, I understood what an incantation is, I learned to incant, I travelled through the incantation of Kalidzamai, I discovered the emergence of dances, I translated languages from other worlds, I discovered all things, and today I can explain each emergence and each transformation that took place. I see a stone, I see a bird, I see a fish, I see a tree, and I know the reason for all of it, because I learned another language, a different one, not mine, but their language - from other beings.

Understanding myths and mythical characters is the same as understanding the world. I realised that the answer to explaining the world has always been within me; that myths have always been part of me, because every night when I laid down in the hammock, my father would tell us a different myth. Today I know how all things started. They are events that took place within mythologies, and if people don’t know the myths, they will never have a clear understanding of the world and the particular way we relate to it. The myth is not from the past; the myth is a present and living narrative.

When we talk about our world, we talk about other worlds. According to the views of my grandfather, the shaman Augusto José Fontes of the Hohoodeni clan, the cosmos is basically composed of four levels: wapinakoa (the place of our bones), hekoapi (this world), apakoa hekoapi (the other world) and apakoa eeno (the other sky). In other narratives, we, the Baniwa, affirm that, beyond these, there are still other worlds, which we cannot see. These worlds are connected by several layers. All layers are connected with each other, delineating different coexisting worlds, about which we can think, in another way, that the universe, more properly, is a multiverse.

The Baniwa cosmogony - the time of the beginning of the world - is composed of a set of myths starring Ñapirikoli, Kowai, Kaali, Dzooli and Amaro: they are the hekoapinai (owners of the universe). What I understand as Baniwa cosmogony begins with the appearance of the hekoapinai in the primordial world and ends with their distancing from the world after the creation of our first ancestors. The ancestors are the grandparents of each group and were born in the Hiipana waterfall with the help of Ñapirikoli. More than any other figure in the Baniwa pantheon, Ñapirikoli was responsible for the form and essence of the world, which is why he can be considered the supreme being of Baniwa cosmology.

I am proud to be an Indigenous woman and an anthropologist, to speak about my people, and to be able, from now on, to speak in the same language with non-Indigenous anthropologists, because we can teach them about our culture.

The text that follows is the narrative told to me by my nhoniri (father), Francisco, of the Waliperedakeenai clan, about the beginning of the world for the Baniwa.

The emergence of the hekoapinai, the bone of Maami - as told by Matsaape

In the old days, the world was small, before Ñapirikoli existed, there were eenonai (animal-people) and their relatives, doemieni. In this small world of the eenonai there were names that were important - those of the animal-people of that time.

One day, Maami (tinamou) thought and thought and remembered that he was going to make dabucuri (a festival of offering) for Omawali (anaconda), who had a premonition: “Bad things are going to start to happen.” And so it happened.

Omawali had two very beautiful daughters. Maami was already arriving for the party. Omawali thought he intended to steal his daughters and decided to hide them from Maami. He made a huge paatto (a straw storage box) and hid his daughters inside. At this party, several other people came to participate, among them was Waliitshi (opossum).

So, Maami had a party and sang and danced, sang and danced until dawn.

The girls asked their father, Omawali, to open the box just a little bit, just to see who was the boy who was singing and dancing so well. The father obeyed. Their intention was to see and run out to dance with Maami, but his enemy Waliitshi was with him, dancing.

Omawali began to open the paatto very slowly, and without waiting, his daughters ran out, straight into Maami’s arms. So, Maami started dancing with the two of them, because he was a very handsome boy who knew many songs and dances. Then he invited them to his home, telling them that he would leave a sign at the beginning of his path. Maami’s sign would be a scarlet macaw’s tail, unlike his companion Waliitshi’s sign, which was the feather of a komakomali (a blue bird).

Omawali’s daughters went after Maami. Arriving there, they saw exactly what he had told them about the signs - the scarlet macaw tail feather and the komakomali feather. One of the sisters said that something was wrong. She suspected that Waliitshi might have switched signals, but the other sister saw no reason to be suspicious. They ended up falling into Waliitshi’s trap, because, out of envy of Maami, he had indeed switched the signs. Waliitshi spoiled them both with his stink. They were covered in his stench.

In the dead of night, they heard Maami singing, and one of them said: “Oh! Listen to where he is singing. It was after him that we came.”

Maami had two security guards: one was Poopoñai (wild duck), who watched over his port, and the other was Dzaaliro (kingfisher), his fisherman. Every time the fishermen went down to fish, the two sisters would call Dzaaliro and ask if their group could take them along to be with Maami. Dzaaliro replied: “My boss doesn’t want you anymore, because you’ve already been spoiled.” But, after many attempts, they finally accepted and took them.

To get rid of their smell, Maami went to the forest to get a leaf called waliwapikhaa (a fragrant leaf used to protect the body and soul). With this leaf, he managed to clean Omawali’s daughters, but Waliitshi would not let go of them. Then Maami thought and said: “I will kill him!”

The next day, Maami invited Waliitshi: “Let’s play? I always play in those hills.” Waliitshi replied: “Yes. Let’s go! It will be a great pleasure to play with you.” And so they went. Maami’s intention was to kill Waliitshi.

Maami went to fetch eettipa (a plant of the annonaceae family), peeled it and fastened the trunk between one end of the mountain range and the other, making a bridge to cross the foothills. This place is called Waliitshi Dzaapani.

Then Maami started running on this trunk. Back and forth, to and fro. And he said to Waliitshi: “Now it’s your turn to run, but I’ll hold the stick so you don’t fall.”

When Waliitshi started to run, Maami turned the trunk. Waliitshi fell from the very high height into the stone abyss and was killed.

The weather was sunny but at dusk, out of nowhere, it rained. Waliitshi’s grandmother ran out of the house, put her hand out to feel the rain and saw drops of blood on her palm. She said: “He killed my grandson.”

The next day, Waliitshi’s grandmother left for the mountains. Arriving there, she found her grandson dead. She took his heart, to take revenge. Arriving at her house, she fried the heart intending to create a Peeri (hawk), so that it would kill Maami. During the preparation, several types of hawks came out of her pot, but none of them were the kind she really wanted. When she was about to finish, the old woman lamented: “Oh, can’t I find my grandson’s way of revenge?” When, eventually, she had finished frying his heart, the long-awaited Peeri appeared, and she exclaimed: “Finally!”

Maami already knew he would have an enemy to face. At dusk he sang, and Omawali’s daughters soon asked him to sing more. But he said: “Oh no! There’s something coming to kill me, if I sing now, it will find me.” But he was compelled to sing once more, as they implored him: “Just one more time for us to hear!” In fact, his enemy was already sitting on the ridge of the roof of the house. Just as Maami sang, Peeri launched onto him with his sharp claws and killed him.

Maami’s grandmother already knew that her grandson had been killed. She said: “Oh! They were the ones who killed him, the eenonai.” Early in the morning, she said to a doemieni boy: “Go see what they’re doing. He said: “Okay.” And so he went.

Early in the morning, he went down the river in a small canoe. He arrived and pulled up at the harbour. The boy saw some people and said: “Hey! What are you doing?” Those at the harbour replied: “Not much. We are cooking Maami, we killed him. Come eat with us!” He replied: “Alright, then.”

The doemieni boy wanted to try to steal a piece of bone or any part of Maami, but the eenonai knew that someone would arrive to do that and so they were very wary. The eenonai had pummelled Maami to a pulp, leaving no bones - everything was pretty shattered.

They began to eat, and the boy had found nothing so far, not a single piece. But luckily, all of a sudden, he felt a tiny grain of bone in his mouth. He disguised it, took the grain and made litekota (a flicking gesture) with his fingers, without anyone seeing it. He had found a small piece of lhiori (knee bone), and he threw the small bone into the sunset. That fragment, as it fell into the lake, detonated, instantly, the sound of thunder. At that moment, everyone there felt the shock and exclaimed, scared: “What was this? What happened?” The boy stood up and said: “I don’t know! Didn’t you see anything?”

“Now we can see,” said the eenonai. “Now we can see, now we can see...” They knew something would happen that could kill them all.

After that, the boy sat down and continued talking as if nothing had happened. When it was late, and the sun was already setting, he got up and said: “I have to go, it’s already late. It was very good to see you.” And he left.

In this myth, rivalry and disagreements between people begin. Waliitshi’s envy of Maami was passed on to humanity. One wanted to be superior to the other, causing disagreements between families and between brothers-in-law.

The drops of blood on the palm of the hand is a way for myths to demonstrate that, in the old days, when the world was small, everyone had the power of noparota (to feel or foresee an important event). Nowadays, people are no longer aware of these signs, but they exist, and some know how to feel them, as is the case of shamans and healers.

These events took place in the vicinity of the Serra de Mucura (Waliitshi Dzaapani), which lies below the Colombian town of Mitú, on the upper Uaupés River. In their reports, the sages spoke more of Querari to refer to the upper Uaupés region, part of the region known as the Tukano Triangle, because several peoples who speak languages of the Tukano family live there, on the banks of the Uaupés, Papuri, and Tiquié rivers, in a cross-border territory with Colombia. With Maami’s death, Ñapirikoli will emerge from his bone, with some similarities between our Baniwa narratives and those of the Wanano, Tariano and others, when they tell of a powerful creator and transformer being born from within a bone.

When Maami said he couldn’t sing anymore, it was because he already knew. He had a premonition that he should take precautions, so as not to die. He tried to warn Omawali’s daughters, but they insisted many times, and so he fell into temptation. Today, this lives on. When waking up in the morning, through a dream, we already know what is going to happen and then we can prevent ourselves from going out into the woods, fishing, or going to the fields.

But sometimes there is someone who insists that the person go hunting or fishing, and something bad may indeed happen, such as a snakebite or other misfortune. If the person does not want to go, it is better not to question. If Omawali’s daughters had known how to listen and obey, Maami would not have died. Stubbornness often leads us to make fatal mistakes. And this legacy remained for humanity, which is us, the Walimanai, today’s humanity.

In this first part, we begin the narrative of the beginning of the world. The world was very small, and in it lived the eenonai, the doemienai and the enonwheri (grandfather of animals). Also lived Maami, grandfather of the hekoapinai, who gave rise to humanity.

The boy returned from the meal with those who had killed Maami. Then the old woman asked the boy: “And so?”

He replied: “I don’t know, my grandmother. But tomorrow take your dopitsi (basket-sieve) to the lake called Lipeekokalitani, to see if you find anything.”

Early in the morning, she left. Once there, she took her dopitsi and started searching the lake. She found only three green dzoodzo (needlefish), very tiny.

This happened near Waliitshi Dzaapani, Serra de Mucura, where there is a creek called Lipeekoali. Going up to the head, there is a lake called Lipeekokalitani. Maami’s bone grain fell into this lake, below Mitú, in the Alto Uaupés region of Colombia. The three dzoodzo that the old woman looked for in the lake were, in fact, Maami’s own bone that was thrown by the boy.

The boy’s grandmother went to get kowaida (chicken chestnut). She put the dzoodzo inside the shell of the kowaida nut and nurtured them.

Every day they were fed tapioca, day after day, until they grew big and turned into people, the first hekoapinai - Ñapirikoli, Heeri and Mawirikoli. As she couldn’t hide them anymore, she decided to show them but it started to be said that this was not a good thing, three people appearing out of nowhere. The hekoapinai grew in wisdom and power. When their grandfather and grandmother realised that they had powers, they said: “Are we going to kill the three of them? They won’t be any good!”

And so they did. The three of them were playing in the hot sun, and the grandmother said: “It is very hot! Go bathe!” However, their grandfather had already turned into a piranha, waiting by the harbour to eat them. Ñapirikoli, Heeri, and Mawirikoli ran to bathe in the river. When they were about to jump, Ñapirikoli said: “Wait! Wait! Wait! Don’t jump.”

One of the brothers asked: “Why?”

“Because there’s something waiting to eat us.”

Ñapirikoli killed a horsefly and threw it into the water. Immediately, the piranha devoured her. Ñapirikoli said: “See? This is our grandfather, who came to wait for us, so he can eat us. Let’s leave!”

The old man got tired of waiting, left and returned home. He heard that they were playing on the field. He waited and waited. The three went into the house, and after a while, the old man said: “Where have you been?”

“In the field, playing,” they replied.

The grandfather said: “I thought you were bathing!”

Ñapirikoli said: “Oh no! It’s because you went to wait for us to eat us, that’s why we left.”

The old man said to his wife: “Now what? I’ll wait for them in the field.” He thought and thought and said: “I’m going to turn myself into an alligator and devour them!”

The children came running to play again and, arriving in the field, they saw a huge alligator lying down. The children said: “Look at the alligator! Look at the alligator!” Ñapirikoli warned them, saying: “Hey, stay away, stay away! This is our grandfather, who wants to eat us. Wait and I’ll tie him up.”

Ñapirikoli stood looking at him and meanwhile, with the power of his incantation, he tied his grandfather’s mouth and body. He couldn’t even move when the incantation was finished. Ñapirikoli said: “Now let’s go over here!” He and the other hekoapinai went to get their bows and arrows. Ñapirikoli said: “Wait here, I’ll get pitch!” They made some big balls of pitch and put them on the tip of the arrow. They went towards their grandfather. Arriving there, Ñapirikoli said: “Look, I know you’re our grandfather! I know! You want to eat us. Now we’re going to shoot your nose and body with arrows.” And so it was done.

Here begins the incantation in the world, when Ñapirikoli decides, with just his eyes and thoughts, to tie the mouth and body of his grandfather, who was in the form of an alligator. To the naked eye, one couldn’t see anything, but with other eyes, suited to supernatural power, one could see the way he was tying him down with the words of his incantation. The power of words has great meaning in our lives. Through words, we protect ourselves from dangers.

The hekoapinai were just boys, but there is no age limit on power and knowledge. Through play they wrought havoc. That’s why the alligator’s nose is as it is today, very ugly. It’s because the hekoapinai shot his nose with balls of pitch. It was all tsipato (deformed).

The old man returned and said to his wife: “And now, what are we going to do? We couldn’t kill them.” Wherever the old couple went, the boys went with them. And when they went into the forest, because they were very smart children, they ran down the path before their grandparents. They reached a point, and Ñapirikoli said: “Let’s kill our grandfather, he’s too tedious!” They ran before them and were gone! Everything was silent.

The old man walked and walked and saw a small tortoise lying down. He said: “You must really be Ñapirikoli. I’ll kill you.” He picked up the tortoise and threw it as hard as he could against a tree, which bounced back like a ball against him again and hit his chest - phááááá! The old man fell down dead.

The boys came running and asked: “What happened?”

Ñapirikoli replied: “I warned you - what you see is not for grabbing.”

Ñapirikoli blessed his cigarette and blew on the tortoise which came back to life. The old man also came back to life and said: “Now, I don’t know what else to do.”

The hekoapinai were very smart kids. The way of being a child emerged at that time, and today our children are as smart as the hekoapinai. When we go along the path to the fields, the children run without fear, clearly showing that they know the territory. They go along the path of the field, cutting down small trees, picking flowers, leaves, mushrooms, and insects to later play pretend in the field.

And it is at this moment that the name Ñapirikoli appears. When his grandfather sees a tortoise lying down, it immediately comes to his mind that it would be him. In Baniwa, iñapi is ‘bone’, iri is ‘son’, koli is a noun complement: iñapi iri means ‘son of bone’. That is why, in our language, we call him ‘son of bone’ or ‘made from bone’.

The next morning, their grandfather said: “My grandchildren, look, today we are going to burn our plantation fields.” The boys said: “C’mon C’mon!” And they ran ahead of them along the path to the fields.

At that moment, Ñapirikoli told his brother that their grandparents’ intention was to burn the three of them. They were already aware that something could happen and, at the same time, plotted a strategy to escape, taking three pieces of embaúba (a fruit tree), one piece for each of them.

When the hekoapinai were taken to be killed by their grandparents in the burning of the fields, they went to the middle, obeying the order given by their grandparents. Every swidden, when it is burned, always ends up having a place that is not burned. In fact, it was in this place that the hekoapinai stood. This still exists today, leaving this legacy for us. The swidden is never burned perfectly, because that’s where they stood.

Arriving at the place, their grandfather said: “You boys go in the middle, I’ll go along the edge, and your grandma goes the other way.” So they went, taking the pieces of embaúba with them. The old people started to set fire to the field. The field burned, raising huge flames of fire, and he said: “Now they’re going to die, there’s no escaping the fire!”

The old people, watching the fields burn, kept talking: “Now yes, now yes, everything will be fine, we already managed to kill them. It didn’t take long, it made a noise, thóoooo!”

“See? It’s already popped the belly of one of them.”

Right behind was another thóoooo! Then the other one: thóoooo!

“Now they’re dead, let’s go back home.” And so they did.

In reality, when the field started to catch fire, the three of them turned into bats and flew away with the smoke. They threw the three pieces of embaúba, and their grandfather didn’t even notice.

Arriving home, the old man heard the noise of children bathing. He ran and saw that it was the hekoapinai who were jumping. “Oh! They are alive. Oh my, I don’t know what else to do!” And they kept growing more and more, and they became young men!

The hekoapinai seek revenge

Ñapirikoli’s intention was to take revenge for the death of his father, Maami, by killing all the eenonai.

The next day, his grandfather thought of making dabucuri (an offering) from cumatá (basket-sieve) for his daughter. He made several cumatás. At that time, Ñapirikoli and his brothers were already young men. Ñapirikoli told his grandfather: “We’re coming with you!”

The grandfather replied: “It won’t do, my canoe is too small. You can see.” He had left the cumatás all over the canoe, precisely so he wouldn’t take the boys. He said: “There’s no place for you to sit!”

Ñapirikoli stood watching and said: “You do not know.” Then he stepped down into the canoe and began to organise the cumatás, putting one on top of the other. “See? Your canoe was now empty.” Seeing this, the old man didn’t know what to do or think. And so he went with them.

Nearing their destination, they said to their grandfather: “Let’s stay here for now. We’re going to the bush to make more cumatás for you to take because there’s very little.” Ñapirikoli told his brother: “Come here with me to pull the canoe.” And they pulled it to dry land - cararararara - on to the sandy beach. Ñapirikoli told his grandfather: “Don’t mess with the canoe.”

However, Ñapirikoli, with his power, blew the canoe (In Baniwa, hiwiatti (blowing) is a bad thing and can cause death. The person who incants the cigarette and then smokes it can blow it anywhere, depending on the badness they want to spread) so the old man would not leave them behind. Since this was the only way their grandparents would not let them fall behind.

Seeing that the boys had already disappeared into the forest, the old man looked at his wife and said: “Let’s get away from them.” And he ran to push the canoe. As he got to the canoe, he felt a twinge under his arm. At the same moment, he fell and writhed on the ground, in great pain. And there he stayed for a long time.

When they returned from the woods, the boys heard their grandfather’s loud screams. They said: “What happened?” And they saw that their grandfather was writhing and screaming. He was nearly dying from the pain.

At this moment in the myth, the blowing begins as something bad, which, today, still exists. In the world, there are many envious people. Sometimes it’s because you’re a hard worker, you have many fields, plants, lots of fruit, or because you are a good fisherman. Within the community there may be a person with this bad wisdom and, just out of envy, that person blows his cigarette on any object, perhaps on your shirt, on the aturá (a type of basket), on the oar, or on your canoe. In this case, the pain of the blowing is already placed.

And, in that same myth, its cure begins. There are these damages, the bad blowings, but there is also their cure. It all starts with Ñapirikoli, at that moment with his grandparents, who began the bad blowing, hiwiatti, and the incantation for healing, iñapakatti.

“I warned you! You went through this because you wanted to, I told you not to touch the canoe,” said Ñapirikoli, who then made a cigarette, incanted it, and blew on his grandfather. Instantly, the pain disappeared. And that same day, they arrived at the place where the offering party would take place.

That night they went to Kaattiwa (green chameleon), the owner of the arrows, which are actually lightning or thunder. Arriving there, Ñapirikoli said: “Grandpa, we’ve come to fetch you wirarí uwíwa (the thunder arrow)!”

The old man asked: “Why, my grandchildren?”

“To avenge our father’s death! We want two bundles!” So they answered.

Kaattiwa said: “Oh no! If I gave you two bundles, you would spoil the world. Because this is very dangerous!” He offered only one, saying the following: “There are these two, which one do you want?”

They said: “We want that arrow that kills people.”

Kaattiwa, very wise, picked and gave them a bundle of arrows that were not poisonous. And so they returned to the place where their grandparents were.

This occurred close to Waliitshi Dzaapani, the Serra de Mucura. The hekoapinai came to take the curare from Kaattiwa in Tunuí Waterfall, in the Middle Içana. The one who possessed this uwíwa (arrow) was Kaattiwa. He had two types: one that had poison, and one that didn’t.

The two types also refer to types of thunder that exist in the world. There’s thunder that just makes noise. This one had no curare at the end of the uwíwa. The other makes noise, shocks, and kills. It’s the one with curare at the end of the uwíwa.

Those who hold these powers today are shamans. It all started when the hekoapinai went to avenge the death of their father and relatives. At that moment, the types of thunder appear.

Kaattiwa did not give them the two bundles. He wisely only gave them one. If he obeyed the hekoapinai, the world would have suffered massive damage at that time and that would remain for humanity - we don’t know what our world would look like today. It is clear that the world was still very small, as they only took a short hop to go from the Upper Uaupés to the Middle Içana. Today, this would be a river trip of up to a month to get from one location to another.

Arriving at the place, they threw thunder. It made noise, but nothing happened. And so they returned again to Kaattiwa. And they said: “Oh! This one is not good. We want the one that kills.” Kaattiwa was very worried about this, but in the end, he gave them what they wanted.

And so, they returned to where their grandparents were. Ñapirikoli told his grandparents that he would dance from midnight onwards. And his grandfather danced from early evening until the agreed time.

The moment came, and his grandfather said: “Ñapirikoli, it’s up to you now!”

And Ñapirikoli said to his grandmother: “When I sing that they killed Ñapirikoli, don’t leave, otherwise you’ll die also.” And he began to sing and dance in the courtyard.

Everyone was in the huts. Then he said, singing: “They killed Ñapirikoli... They killed Ñapirikoli...”

At that same time, everyone ran out of their huts to see, including Ñapirikoli’s grandmother. They just wanted to hear it - the death of Ñapirikoli. At that moment, he threw the thunder to the ground, and at that instant, everyone had their necks snapped. There were people everywhere, lying on the ground, dead.

After this, the hekoapinai were walking around, and one of his brothers went to see that their grandmother was lying down, dead. He ran and said to his brother: “Ñapirikoli! Our grandmother is dead, her neck broke.”


“There she is!” He ran and saw her lying down. Then he said: “Why did you do that? I told you not to leave!” He looked the other way, and there was his dead grandfather! Ñapirikoli took tobacco, made a cigarette, incanted it and blew on his grandmother. At the same time, all the others also revived.

“Oh! This is not good!” Ñapirikoli blew out his cigarette again, and everyone stayed the way they were, headless. He tried to blow only on his grandmother, and the same thing happened. He said: “This is not good.” And he blew out his cigarette again, and that’s how they all died, including their grandparents.

And so the hekoapinai finished off all their eenonai enemies. Here ends the small world, the world of the eenonai. After this, Ñapirikoli looks for his possible allies for the construction and creation of the world, for which he seeks the help of Dzooli, Amaro, and Kaali.

Finally, we realise that the routes taken during the mythological narration and their consequences are all left to us. This narration teaches us how present it is in everyday life, how much we have two personalities, and how inside we are all both human and animal.

Edited and translated extract from Umbigo do Mundo (Dantes Editora e Livraria Ltda, 2023), launched at Selvagem’s Ancestral Memory Cycle - a vigil of orality.

Choose Your Own Leaf, Explore Related Pieces...

View All


Confluences: On Endings

Column by Madeleine Bazil


Confluences: On Anaïs Tondeur

Column by Madeleine Bazil


Confluences: On Zayaan Khan

Column by Madeleine Bazil


Confluences: On 2023

Column by Madeleine Bazil


Confluences: On Mohamed Mahdy's Archival Storytelling

Column by Madeleine Bazil


Confluences: On Removal Acts

Column by Madeleine Bazil


Confluences: On Art, Resistance, and COP28

Column by Madeleine Bazil


Confluences: The Land Carries Our Ancestors

Column by Madeleine Bazil


feature - Issue #14