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Updates from the Last Chance to Paint team

Day 7 – tribal ceremony

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

Wow! We can’t believe that we’ve been in Brazil for a week now!

Just another quick reminder that our videos to Facebook and YouTube won’t be running until we return to WiFi and 4G towards the end of the week when we begin our travel home. This is due to a issue we have with the satellite we use. Don’t worry as we are still filming, so all our footage will be posted soon!

Last night was truly magical. The young Shaman Razu, who I mentioned in a previous blog arrived, and we were invited to our first traditional Yawanawá ceremony.

The evening event started at around 8pm when a open fire was lit in the square, and the Yawanawá people started to gather. A blessing was made by the Shaman over some hot coals separate to the fire pit, to begin the ceremony. The Shaman calmed the space by playing some haunting flute music Then some speeches were made, kindly translated by Nixiwaka, for us to understand. They thanked us for being here with them to celebrate, told us we weren’t obligated to join in and that they were happy for us to observe. They said how much John’s paintings had inspired them and that we were very welcome here with them. Following this, the ceremony began. The men followed by the women then lined up and one by one drank the “medicine”. Their “medicine” is made from special plants in the forest and is called Ayahuasca. It allows them to connect to their spiritual culture.

The evening proceeded with the Yawanawá people singing unaccompanied chant like songs. An example of one of these songs is on the music section of our website and is called “Wakomaya” meaning happiness. All the songs are sung in traditional Yawanawá and have been passed through the centuries by word of mouth and strong tradition. The chants were followed by musical instruments, an African drum, a guitar and a ukelele – these were modern instruments not traditional. The men sung whilst the woman danced round the fire making for a wonderful sight.

Robin informed us that this part of the ceremony was not traditional. Originally, no instruments would have been used, simply the voice and lots of chanting. Nixi also confirmed that the woman in the past wouldn’t have been allowed to dance unless accompanied by a man. It was all very interesting to see. The ceremony wrapped up at around 1am and it won’t be until Wednesday night in the next ceremony, that they are able to take the Ayahuasca again.

As the ceremony was so powerful last night, John has decided to paint the magical event. He has set up in the village right in the square where the ceremonies take place. I can’t wait to see how he interprets the wonderful scene last night in his painting!

Today is the first day that John has painted right in the centre of the village and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Many children have come to watch, sit with and attempt to talk to him and many adults have expressed how inspired they are.

Thanks for sending us more questions – Here they are answered!

What do they use to cook on?

They use modern gas cookers with bottled gas.

How do you think humans have damaged the environment in the rainforest?

Using the land for agriculture (slash and burn) which means they cut down the trees for open spaces which they raise cattle on for meat. They also grow soya which is sent to China to feed chickens again for meat. They log the trees as well for fuel, buildings, furniture and instruments. It’s very sad.

What can people do to look after this environment?

Try and encourage your family, friends and schools to plant based diet. This means drastically reduces your meat consumption.

How are you not scared of the animals?

We aren’t scared because we know we are in very safe hands with the Yawanawá. They would really know what to do if something went wrong. We have also noticed, since being here, that most of the animals are more scared of us!

Which animal scares the villagers the most, or is the biggest threat?

They are very cautious when in the rainforest about Jaguars, however a Jaguar isn’t likely to enter the village. However since we’ve been here we’ve seen a deadly snake in the village and been warned many times to watch where we walk, so I would say that the Yawanawá are most scared of being bitten by a snake.

What is the most colourful plant you have seen so far in the rainforest?

So far we have seen some pink trumpet shaped flowers across a river bank and the underside of some of the leaves are very colourful, but generally the rainforest is a mix of greens, whites, greys, and browns. The most colourful thing we have seen are the butterflies of which there are many including blue, green, purple, red, and yellow. They are stunning!

Are you scared when you are sleeping at night?

I would be very scared if I didn’t have a mosquito net. The spiders are as big as an adult hand and there at least 50 in our house!

Do all the noises in the rainforest make it difficult to get to sleep?

No! It’s mainly frogs that we hear at night which actually relax us in getting to sleep. However we get woken up by the chickens very early in the morning as they especially like to cockadoodledoo at 2am!

Small changes to make a big difference: 6. As stated above, try and reduce meat in your diet especially red meats and meat from fast food outlets. 7. Try and reduce the amount of new clothes you buy. Cotton is one of the biggest polluters on planet earth. Personally I buy lots of my clothes in charity shops so they can be worn over and over again. 2nd hand school uniform is also really good to buy.

Martha-Lilly x

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