Ancestral Transmission: Xapiri report shines a light on the Matsés people on the Peruvian/Brazilian frontier

Ancestral Transmission is a three-part report which gives an insight into the Matsés people who live in the Javari valley – some of the most remote rainforest in the world on the Peruvian/Brazilian frontier.

Produced by Xapiri – an online gallery and shop which supports Amazonian indigenous culture – the report features stunning photography and knowledge of the Matsés people, based on Xapiri’s expedition to these lands in May.

The Matsés inhabit the very heart of the Amazon Rainforest, an area of staggering natural beauty and almost inconceivable biodiversity, but a land deeply troubled and beset with threats from logging and multinational petroleum companies. It is one of the last frontiers.

Around 2200 Matsés people inhabit the Peruvian side, and across the river into Brazil, their population numbers 1300. In Brazil, part of the Matsés territory lies within the Valle do Javari Indigenous Reserve, which protects the largest number of uncontacted groups in isolation remaining in the world.

In the first part of its reportage, Xapiri’s introduces the culture of the Matsés through their art and takes a look into the sacred and medicinal plants that the people use for healing. 

Biodiversity in the Amazon rainforest includes 150,000 plant species calling the jungle their home. Over the past few years, one hectare plots of “Healing Forests” have been planted and maintained by 10 different Matsés villages. These Healing Forests can contain 100s of species, and the aim is to safeguard all of the Matsés ancestral medicinal knowledge and to ensure there is a method for this knowledge to be passed down to the younger generations.

Speaking about the Ancestral Transmission project, Xapiri said: “In Matsés villages it is generally only the elders who have the knowledge to make the artefacts.

“The reality today is that very few young Matsés take interest in learning and continuing these practices. It is our mission for this ancestral transmission to continue, by offering support and motivation to the younger generation when learning from their elders.

“Art [too] is of central importance in the villages and if this ancestral wisdom continues to thrive, so can the cultural identity of the Matsés.”

Part 2 of Xapiri’s report explores more Matsés traditions and ancestral practices, from their hunting origins to their use of tobacco. While Part 3 takes an in-depth look at the art of the Matsés, which is fundamental to their culture, including traditional artefacts from ceramics to bow and arrows, as well as basketry, hammocks and jewellery.

The three-part report is an engaging and insightful look into the lives of this indigenous tribe, of which Xapiri intend to increase awareness and inspire positive change.

Xapiri said: “It’s time for change. Time for the rainforest to be protected. Time for indigenous people to freely continue their way of life, maintain their culture and determine their own future. For the wider world to understand, learn from and give the diverse mix of ethnic groups in Amazonia the respect they deserve.”

Images source: Xapiri

Ancestral Transmission

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea

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