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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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of a priest, and some poorly clad women. As I approached the open church, I realized, with astonishment, that the priest was precisely in the act of performing the baptism of these forest people. They were six men of the tribe of the Jupuas

and Catauuixis, of the Japura.

Having arrived from the woods in the evening, they heard an unintelligible explanation of the dogma, made by the priest, without giving any sign of intimate enthusiasm, and accompanied him unconsciously to the church, where the ceremony was held, while the parishener, a vigorous mulatto , took on the role of godfather (Maya angaba, that is, "mother of souls") and I placed a candle in his hand myself to make the ceremony more solemn. I remember, not without painful emotion, what I felt to witness this useless solemnity. Only the godfather could, perhaps, profit from a sense of devotion by practicing such an act of mercy. The Indians withdrew within a second, after an awkward genuflection, after having received from their godfather some presents; In the afternoon, I saw them. in their canoes, paddling back to their huts in the woods.

I thought the whole ceremony sadly ironic, and with regret I must say that these are not rare. The crude convert considers baptism, sometimes superstitiously, as a protection against the black art of his enemies, and sometimes as a means of obtaining some useful object from the naive whites. It is not uncommon for the same individuals to present themselves several times to different churches ...

The Indians of Nogueira are famous for their skill in the manufacture of earthenware (1). We walked there from cabin to cabin, to know the ingredients and the manipulation they use, and we

 

(1) For the domestic service, they prepare large and flat pots, sometimes of three feet in diameter (japunas), which are fixed in the masonry stove, for the roasting of cassava flour, and hemispherical vessels (nhenpepo) of various sizes, in (cokendapaba), which they cook the food.

There are rare vessels (reru) and shallow trays (Periricaba). They finally make great pots (camo), to conserve the drinks. All this crazy clay is not glazed; and generally of massive and coarse manufacture, and each one according to the different clays, of grayish color, whitish or reddish, rarely of dark or almost black tone.

For sale, they manufacture, with greater care, especially a quality of shallow dishes of various sizes, bevelled on one side, resembling of our barbeque basins. Probably one of them served primitively as a model, and this unique format now predominates throughout the river region. This crazy clay is glazed inside, or, varnished. The raw material for this purpose, a stained clay or gray-whitish clay, is for a long time kneaded between the hands with effort until acquiring the due delicacy and plasticity. The free hand format, as all the savage tribes of America do in general, by the joining of fine clay cylinders around a common center, which then joins and closely attaches mass. The vessel is fragile and put in the sun, and then cooked in open pits for this in the earth,

using soft wood for lower heating, like the cacao tree, some species of Cellis, or the bark of the forest tree (Lecythis Idatimon, A.). The task, in which the Indians prove more industrious, is the task of painting the vessel. A hollowed potato made with the red carajuru ink, finally pulverized and mixed with water, sometimes linked with the milky resin of the rowan, forms the bottom.

On them are applied many patterns of figures in all colors, interspersed with arabesques in a straight or curved line, adorned with flowers and animals. The inks are almost all vegetables and do not support new cooking. They are content, therefore, to pass over the entire surface a thin layer of copal powder (jitaicica), and expose the pieces to the midday sun or on the stove to melt them, which forms a bright, transparent varnish, which loses its brightness and consistency when exposed to excessive heat or when subjected to the action of the alcohol. This vessel reminds us, because of her clumsy, extravagant paintings and colorful variegations, both of Chinese taste, and that of the ancient Mexicans. The Indians, who, through coexistence with the whites, become more civilized, in particular those of the village of Cameta, now know how to give better shape to their vessels, using mineral paints and even applying gold paint.

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