Daiara Tukano for Radio Yandê
Translation by Ligia Mello
The Embrace Of The Serpent tells the story of Karamakate and his journey wih three visitors in the search of memory and dream. Based in the writings of the explorers Theodor Koch-Grunberg and Richard Evans Schultes, the film directed by the Colombian Ciro Guerra was among the Oscar Nominees and promisses to keep gathering awards.
In black and white, the fiction portrays the amazon of the Brazil-Colombia boarder by the end of the 19th century and the beginnning of the 20th, the devastation of rubber and of the catholic missions for the native peoples of the region. A account in two times tells the journey of the two foreign scientists in the search of a sacred plant having Karamakate as guide and passenger.
The beautiful photography invites the public to a trip between three worlds: the past, the present and the eternal. We recomend it to all the relatives as a reflection about our history and our paths.
Here follows personal reflexions of mine, it might contain spoilers.
I am from the Yepa Massã people, better known as Tukano, and I could not watch this film or write about it without relating to it personally, for it happens precisely in the region of my nation and other sibling nations who came down in this world mounted in the great sacred anaconda.
The Embrace Of The Serpent shows a lot of our cosmology and of our way of understanding the world: the boarders between illusion and reality, our origin and our journey.
The first contact of the Yepa Massã people with the whites happened in 1630, portuguese and spaniards promoted wars among our peoples, stealing our children, killing our men and raping our women. They came accompanied by catholic missionaries who treated us as demons, changed our names, baptized us as Tukano, forbade our languages, our rituals and all our knowledge; they did not want to know us nor understand our world, just exploit it, and many keep this approach until today. Then came the captains of rubber in the search of slaves for their empire. We know exactly our history and the many battles that hapenned since then, the slaveship brought us a lot of death and a huge sadness. They came in bringing the madness in the illusion of fake richnesses: gold, rubber, money at the cost of our lives without understanding that this would not save their own. They came mad and ill and unprepared we ended up dived in this hell.
Until today, thousands of relatives in the region work for a few pennies or some gulps of alcohol to try to forget this nightmare. In these almost 400 years of violence we were put into a misery of which is hard to rise from, for the violence of colonization made many lose
their faith in humanity that came to show us the worst of it; many also lost the faith in themselves, many forgot their history and also their way as nation and as natives.
The great metaphor of the film is the memory and the forgetfulness. Karamakate is the last keeper of the memory of his people but suffers with memory problems, therefore he goes on a journey to recover all that was inside of him, he becomes to the foreigners a guide in the search of his own path, the true guides are the sacred medicines of the forest: tobacco, coca and caapi (ayahuasca), medicines of knowledge and spiritual guide of our peoples; ancient medicines that should be treated and used with a lot of respect, discipline and orientation.
Karamakate is the sole spectator of the devastation of his people, he carries with himself a reality far from the illusions carried by false prophets, he carries with him only his necklace, his blowpipe and his knowledge, he respects the forest's laws as he is connected to her.
The shaman, when looking at his own picture, recognizes the emptiness of the image: it misses the soul, and he does not want to become empty, he does not want to become an empty body without spirit and without memory, as many that walk around there. His only mission is to
keep his spirit and his memory alive.
Karamakate lives inside of all the natives of this land, he is the memory that is in our blood and in each sacred territory, the memory of each knowledge, singing and medicine. Karamakate is an invitation to the journey inside ourselves. Our memory is an exercise: it needs to be practiced to be alive, without it we no longer are and become something artificial. In our memory is the nourishment for our soul, the key to wake up from this nightmare in which we were pushed into. Many already died and still die for us, each drop of native blood leaves a mark in our memory in this land. We need to remember, we need to rise, sing, paint ourselves and pray in our own way the great creation is only one and all of us fit in it.
For my people, the cosmic anaconda is our mother and guide, other peoples have other origins, but we came from the waters. The anaconda knows many worlds and has many secrets, it is** the memory guardian. Who fears the anaconda fears what is inside of one self, its embrace is not different from any other hug: all we need is to open up and give our heart, this way we will be able to face our pains, our fears and transform ourselves.