Throughout the state of Acre, Amazonas and southern Peru, the indigenous people Huni Kuin always found a cure in nature, thanks to their close relationship with the forest and their millenary knowledge of plants. Grown in their medicinal gardens, different species of plants treat physical and spiritual ailments. Natural solutions that serve anything from stoping a toothache, to helping focus on fishing and hunting, or even putting an end to the misfortune of men and dogs.
More than 100 species of this therapy are now presented in text and visuals in the recently released “Una Isi Kayawa – Cure Book Huni Kui the Jordan River” (Before Publishing, 260 pages), organized by the shaman Augustine Manduca Matthew Ika Muru and ethnobotanist Alexandre Quinet, a researcher at Rio’s Botanical Garden (a collection of photos of Camilla Coutinho made to the works in the show are “The dream that heals,” displayed at Parque Lage). The publication was an old dream of Manduca shaman, who died in 2011: perpetuated the printed record of the medical culture of his people, before being restricted oral transmission. Fruit of a long process, which included five expeditions to the Jordan River (Acre), interviews with shamans, collection and catalogs of botanical material, as well as resident translators in Rio de Janeiro. The project is an unprecedented exchange of experiences between the National Center Flora Conservation Research Institute of Botanical Gardens and Huni Kuin. It incorporates the application of scientific and technical research of the “white man” to the knowledge of traditional cultures of the Indians.
The record of plants indigenous therapy follows a mythical division of four groups (Dau, Inani, Inu, Banu). The presentation of spiritual concepts of Huni Kuin (also known as Kaxinawás) is essential for them, since there is no clear separation between science and religion. The use of herbs is accompanied by chants, and the healing process involves an intricate relationship with other living beings.
– “The man’s connection with the plants comes from the early days, when the search for the cure of diseases was directly related to the belief in the power of the forces of nature, particularly the plant world” – notes Quinet. – “The priests were the earliest alchemists, guarding the observations of the herbal uses. Cultures as diverse as that of Huni Kuin Indians, had a magical conception of plants, always related to the enchanted beings of nature, which make up its theogonic worldview.
In the world of Huni Kuin, the influence of the deities can manifest positively – the success in hunting, for example – or negatively – in suffering with illnesses. Part of the cure depends on a sustainable behavior, since the ecological relationships influence the health of men, creating a reaction cycle and revenge of the spirits of plants and animals. Feeding on chicks and damaging them during their dismemberment causes health problems to the hunter. Eating a capybara cub, for example, can cause sudden pain and epilepsy (diseases can be treated by them with baths of amé leaves, Maku txakiwã or Rutaceae in traditional nomenclature).
According to organizers of the book, there is no opposition between the “magic” characters of Huni Kuin knowledge and conventional scientific approach: shamans and scientists operating at different levels of consciousness, but getting the same knowledge of the species. Besides being an endorsement of the Western botanical indigenous knowledge, however, the project is a dialogue between two complementary intelligences, says the publisher Anna Dantes.
– “For Huni Kuin, the plants are sacred; It is a vision that has been lost in the West, but remains in native cultures” – he explains. – “I see that in many places in the West, they seek to recover this connection with the plant world, the understanding that we are nature.”
Translating the complex knowledge of Huni Kuin was a challenge for Anna. In 2008, she edited the “Cabinet of curiosities of Domenico Vandelli”, which presented the universe of an Italian naturalist of the eighteenth century by a more enlightened view. Already an edition of “Book of Healing”, which also includes photographs of Gabriel Rosa and artist Ernesto Neto, among others, aesthetic guides for notebooks and drawings of shamans. Try diagramming windows, free and organic proportions, and use paper made of recycled plastic, which makes it resistant to humid conditions of the forest, which must be distributed.
– “We have been faithful to the concept of the “Living book” designed by Manduca: a dynamic instrument of collective learning that transforms those involved.” – Accounts Anna. – “The photos had to help the taxonomist to identify the plants, but at the same time present them in a language with which the shaman apprentice can identify themselves. The Huni Kuin are always updating their culture, and they wanted to show how the knowledge of the forest can be more valuable than other types of exploitation, such as livestock.”
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