Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
Figure 4. African slaves chop down Brazilwood trees whose bright red wood was then
shipped to Portugal to make fine furniture and synthetic dyes. (Source:
ancestral territories, the Indigenous population in Brazil has begun to increase
Nevertheless, land conflicts are still frequent and the assassination of Indigenous
leaders in the country an everyday reality. The color red is thus a metaphor that stands
for long-lasting colonial relationships until this very day. Red is also a favorite color
for many Indigenous Peoples given the widespread use of urucu ( Bixa orellana)
to decorate the body and objects, such as basketry and pottery. The color red is a
symbol for life and death, and everything that stands in between.
The Xavante, as other Gê-speaking peoples do, use four terms to classify colors:
red, black, white, and yellow - which usually includes green and blue. They use
body-paint as a medium not only of decoration, but also communication. The
contrast between the color red, obtained from urucu seeds, and black, extracted from
charcoal and the jenipapo fruit ( Genipa americana ), reveals one's membership to an
extended family, faction, clan, age-set or any other social group. The everyday ritual
of covering one's body in red and black is part of the Xavante self and notion of
humanity. White is reserved for the dead or ghosts. Other Gê-speaking peoples, such
as the Kayapó and the Suyá, classify colors in a very similar way. Their everyday
rituals of decorating one's body in red and black is a visual contribution to the
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