Interview: Nitynawa (Jaqueira Pataxo Village)

In the heart of the rainforest, a reserve was established by three sisters to help preserve and revitalize the original Pataxó culture. We spoke to one of the founders, Nitynawã, and heard how encouraging visitors to experience Pataxó culture rejuvenated it for generations to come.

Bee + Hive: What was the goal of Jaqueira Pataxó village?

Nitynawã: Our goal here in the village is to protect the cultural part of our people. So the importance for us here is our own culture – singing around the campfire at night, the shaman, contact with the earth, with the forest, as our elders taught us. And the space was opened for visitors to experience our culture. And it is the visitors who help us to preserve what’s here, and to strengthen Pataxó culture. Today we have a school in the village, from kindergarten through fifth grade that teaches the Pataxó language. Everything here in the village was through the visitors here, visiting us.

Bee + Hive: Tell us about the Jaqueira Paxato Village experience?

Nitynawã: Normally when the visitors come, they will listen…They will be welcomed, then they will hear about the Pataxó culture and its environment, which I or another villager will give. The history that we tell visitors is the history experienced by us. [We were] a people that always walked in this region here, from Santa Cruz Cabrália, to Prado, Barra Velha… So we still live a very traditional life, walking in the woods, planting, harvesting, and making crafts. That is our life, and that’s what we pass on to our visitor. We founded the village of Jaqueira out of the need to strengthen our culture, preserving 827 hectares of Atlantic Forest. So, just as we watched our parents doing the rituals, the sacred ceremonies, the paintings, making crafts, today we also pass on here in the community to these young people. And that’s what we also show here for our visitors.

Bee + Hive: Visitors also have the option to spend the night here, is that right?

Nitynawã: Yes. We have three tours: one about three hours long, one that lasts all day and one that includes an overnight stay. Visitors have lunch, dinner and breakfast with us, participating in clay making and craft making during the day which they can take home, and then spend the night with us. We do everything together.

Bee + Hive: How does tourism and the village help the environment?

Nitynawã: I think with planned and organized tourism, people can keep the environment preserved. Today, we do educational work and we also have a nursery of native seedlings. With this we help to reforest some degraded areas, coastal woodlands, or other spaces. My message is that the tourists come to visit us, and help us take care of these forests, help strengthen our ethnicity, and in this way, we will help others who need it. If they need us to also give a lecture in a school somewhere, in another place, we do that. We do workshops in other places, in hotels, we are invited by events to do workshops for crafts making, painting, archery, and we will also do these with visitors, too.

Bee + Hive: And what do you most about the life you lead here?

Nitynawã: What I like the most is to pass on some of the history of my people to those who do not know it. Because it’s a history that few people know, the history of the Pataxó people.  And I also like to see the kids here running, playing, jumping, studying, having the freedom to be a child. To see our older people around the campfire, to see an elder sitting on his mat, this is something for us, we are very happy to see, something that in other places, sometimes they cannot experience this anymore. I’m very happy here in Jaqueira.