O Xingu transforms quickly. Indigenous leaders in the territory are concerned about the fate of the knowledge they have accumulated over hundreds of years. The Xingu Indigenous Park, located in the north of the state of Mato Grosso, between the Cerrado and the Amazon, is home to about 14 different ethnicities, including the Kamayurá. Last year they decided to create a publication with hollow building techniques. From this desire was born Kamayur Architecture Handbooká, a synthesis of its traditional construction.
The idea came from Kanawayuri L. Marcello Kamayurá, a local leader, when he met in the Xingu the architect Clarissa Morgenroth, a great designer who traveled around the region for nine months. He invited her to the project and she involved the City School, through the Habita-Cidade platform with the workshop Modes of Inhabiting: Traditional Architectures. A group of students and teachers was formed and traveled to Aldeia Ypawu, in Kamayurá territory in the Upper Xingu, to support this endeavor, especially in the preparation and storage of drawings on the computer.
“When we arrived at the Xingu, we found that some indigenous people already had preliminary knowledge of technical drawings. We then pose the question: what is the Kamayurá territory like? Kneeling on a large white paper, they drew the village with its hollows, river, birds, trees… The hollow was a traditional representation of them and served as the basis for the beginning of the work”, says Luis Octavio de Faria e Silva, architect, platform coordinator. “Although there are differences between some ethnic groups, the construction systems of the Xingu have a lot in common. The architectural unit is the hollow, whose quantity in the village can vary according to the resident population”. With oval shapes they are distributed in a circle and it is there that they do some domestic activities, except lighting the fire for cooking.
Inside the hollows, at their ends they hang hammocks and the central part is reserved for commerce and rituals. “The head of the family takes care of the construction of his house together with the relatives, where each member has different and multiple knowledge that work together”. The constructions are made with materials taken from the forest and executed with traditional techniques, with thatched roofs that extend to the ground. These elements combine economy of materials and formal elegance. “If it gets a little irregular, they don't care, what counts is the cohesion of the group”, guarantees Luis Octavio. According to him, the Kamayurá maintain a curious look at what is outside their culture. Today they also make four-pitched houses covered with straw. The hollows measure around 30 by 10 meters and can reach 10 meters high, with low openings, through which access is given.
How to enter the Xingu with the idea of collaborating with the indigenous people in a project of understanding and representing their traditional housing without encountering resistance from ethnologists, anthropologists, sertanistas? Luis Octavio comments that an anthropologist was part of the project and they had preliminary meetings with him in which he presented the formal requirements of coexistence in the Indigenous Park and the etiquette of how to treat the Kamayurá. They had to follow a protocol that was initially rigid and then became more relaxed, according to the architect.
During the workshop, measurements and materials used in Kamayurá constructions were carried out. Based on these surveys, representation drawings (plans, elevations) and tables were made. According to the architect, these indigenous people are proud to build their homes. “Their objective, through the Manual, is the census of the knowledge to build and the equalization of the knowledge between them. The idea is to involve young people in the construction of housing and the leaders believe that this manual with traditional techniques will help them.”
The first elements to be placed in the construction of a Kamayurá house are the central pillars, followed by the posts that form the perimeter. The hollow is composed of two light structures connected as if they were two overlapping baskets. These baskets are fastened by vertical and horizontal lashings. The straw is placed last from the bottom up. Build a house, for the Kamayurá, it's also fun.
The hollows constitute a space of semi-darkness and privacy, but at the same time they are an open place. In each of them live about 20 people from related families. These houses, in general, last from eight to 10 years old. “They usually do maintenance if the building is too old, but the Kamayurá prefer to build a new hollow. And when that happens, all the old building material is reused or burned, they don't accumulate waste in the village. In general, they understand their culture, they perceive the harmonious interaction with the biome, but they are not dazzled.”
At the moment, what exists in circulation on the internet is a version of the Manual printed in the village, which has already been revised by Escola da Cidade and sent to Xingu. The architects await the observations or possible corrections from the Kamayurá. The intention is to make, after everything has been revised, an English version so that it can be circulated in several countries.