NIXPUPIMA: A MUSICAL COMING OF AGE FOR THE HUNI KUIN
Who: Huni Kuin
Where: Novo Futuro, Tarauacá, Acre, Brazil
How Much: $50,000 USD already raised, need another $35,000
A Huni Kuin myth tells us that the birds and animals which begin to cry andfill the forest with their songs and voices at dawn impart to us a magicalreenactment of creation. Nixpupima initiates undergo a diet and a ritualseclusion as well as moments of ritual silence, exchange and exhaustivedancing. The idea is to become a talented singer like the birds whose songscommand the early morning or to become a great orator like the howlermonkey whose voice echoes over long distances.
Rainforest Baptism (title) ©Marcelo Fortaleza Flores. ©theboafoundation.org.
Kachanawa at the Nixpupima Ceremony, Novo Futuro Village. ©Sylvestre Campe
Initiate at the Nixpupima, Novo Futuro, 2022. ©Sylvestre Campe
Mukani Huni Kuin at a Sananga Ceremony, Novo Futuro, 2022. ©Sylvestre Campe
Boa’s new project of filming long-lost ceremonies in communities which wantto revive their cultural heritage provides a boost to local identity, memory andit opens a renewed space for spirituality in young indigenous peoples lives.Such cultural revival is fundamental today when cell phones and socialmedia dominate young people’s lives. It reinstates an educational scenariowhere the young listen carefully to elders who share their wisdom with allparticipants, and specially the initiates whose lives will be transformed bythe ceremony
NIXPUPIMA: A MUSICAL COMING OF AGE FOR THE HUNI KUIN
In February 2022, the Boa Foundation engaged in supporting a new concept in activism. It funded and filmed a transformative ritual by the Huni Kuin indigenous peoples, one of Amazonia’s most resilient indigenous groups. Ninawa, the shaman and leader of the Novo Futuro Village, hosted this coming of age ceremony, but invited the Jordão River Huni Kuin elders to guide the ritual. The idea was to revive and promote an ancient indigenous cultural heritage by joining the Huni Kuin leadership in their bid to recreate and preserve their most cherished traditions. The Nixpupima ceremony had long been lost by the Novo Futuro community due to the fact they were put to slavery during the rubber boom. Trusting indigenous culture’s oral mastery for preserving their traditions, the ritual took place with éclat and it was professionally filmed for posterity by an experienced film crew. Counting with the guidance and command of the elders who remembered taking part in such rites many years ago, as well as with the full participation of the indigenous youth who hoped to participate in the ritual to propitiate their future lives, the event provided the basis for a new Boa project for fomenting indigenous communities' cultural reproduction and continuity. It also showed the Huni Kuin is one of the most resilient indigenous groups in Brazil.
Novo Futuro is located in one of the Amazon's most preserved ecosystems, a stone’s throw from an isolated indigenous community upriver. The Amazon Forest was in its lush rainy season, so our film was named Rainforest Baptism. The constant presence of clouds shrouding the ceremony made for some of the most magical moments for the film, and brought exuberance and beauty to the event.
Ninawa decided to share his people’s most precious ritual tradition with their youth in order to make them aware of the depths of their culture. The Nixpupima is termed a “baptism” because it consists in a naming ceremony for the young. A new name is acquired and an old name confirmed, but the youth also guarantee the prosperity of their future lives. Many grown-ups at the village had not gone through this rite of passage in their youth, and so all age groups wholeheartedly took part in the ceremony.
Ninawa also became a narrator and personage for the film, which highlighted his political, spiritual and artistic skills. An an unparalleled musician, Ninawa provided the entire score to the film with his guitarand with traditional chants as well as ícaro curing songs which brought forth the force of the Huni Kuin’s sacred medicines. Joining in the ritual, there were other prime singers like Biruany Huni Kuin. The event provided the Novo Futuro and Jordão communities with a great opportunity for cultural exchange.
The Nixpupima is an auspicious recreation of children, parents and elders’ lives, for their futures is rerouted by the ritual to a future happy and successful life. The elders considered that Boa was very wise to support such an endeavor. We need continuing funds now for the editing and post-production of the film. Once it is done, nevertheless, the idea is to support other communities in their bid to performing long-lost rituals whose memory the elders still guard in their prodigious knowledge of oral culture and practice.
We have a trailer for the film, so donors can see the beauty of the ceremony of the importance of this project.
• Our aim is to record many other lost ritual and ceremonies in many parts of the world.
• This cultural revival and ritual sponsorship was provided by members of our community who graciously donated for the event.
• During the Nixpupima ceremony, the Jordão leaders who ran the ritual at Novo Futuro communicated that they also have a ceremony which they have not performed for over forty years: the Harpy Eagle’s ceremony. They got inspired to inviting members of the Purus HuniKuin communities, who still hold the knowledge of that ritual, to come to Jordão to revive their own heritage. Our project thus caught on with the Huni Kuin themselves.
• A further educational component of this project is that all recorded materials will be left with the communities schools so that they can use such recordings in their education of their young.
• An unprecedented documentary film
• Cultual revival = connected youth
• Reintroducing spirituality to young people’s lives
• Raw materials provided to local schools for education