The Mask: I bought the mask from an indigenous group of Indians that lived close to Manacapuru. They were Satare-Mawe from Parintins Island.
They lived in an area of forest surrounded by a small settlement of caboclos living in wooden houses with modern accessories. The Indians area of forest was fenced off, but houses were being built close by. I doubt they would be able to continue their simple way of life for much longer.
I was told some of the traditional names of the people. The chief was called Tatu…Armadillo. A young boy with strong features was called Onca…Jaguar. A pretty young girl was named Passarinha…little bird. A young man named Gumbar…stinky animal, a beautiful woman…named Formiga da Cabeca Brilhosa…..Ant with shiny head and another older woman was named Camillion…Chaemeleon
The mask I bought was said to be used in ceremonies or to ward off evil spirits. It is made of either a thin husk or balsa wood, which grows in the forest. The long fringe at the bottom is made from grasses.
The necklace is made from rough string threaded with seeds and decorated with snake bones.
Strangely the expression on the mask alters when it is looked at from different angles.
Forest spirits: A friend was taking a visiting couple into the forest on a short trek, I was asked to go along as they were English and I could explain things to them more easily.
As we waited for the guests, Ananias, an Apurina Indian, started muttering under his breath. I asked what was the problem. He said he was asking the forest for safe passage. Given to joking and teasing me, I wasn’t sure he was serious, but he insisted that he was doing that.
Later he explained that he always did that and thanked the forest when he got back safely. He said his father and grandfather taught him that.
Anyone who has ever been in a rainforest will understand. It seems alive, not just in the natural sense, but in a spiritual way. Entering the forest is akin to walking through the doors of a grand cathedral. It is immense and humbling, so therefore, to ask for safe passage seems a quite natural thing to do.
I spent many days, weeks sometimes, entirely alone in the forest and I felt it keenly…..the essence, a life force, coming from within the rainforest. I read recently in National Geographic that trees cry,scream even if they are dehydrated. Might they do that when they are chopped down? Might that be why so many of us are fighting to protect the forest?