A Wapichana borduna – a traditional club –  was among the objects burnt to ashes in the fire that destroyed the Brazilian National Museum. Now a new borduna is born, and it carries a message.

Our grandparents sent us a message: let’s weave darruanas and board our canoes to fish; let’s bring flour with us, then gather around the fire at the end of the day. Over the flames, the moment to share has come: the fish is smoked, our kin is now a star, the animals feast, the flour house resists the flames, and the museum is in the ashes of the bonfire.

Where does memory live? It was on one of these days that Theodor Koch-Grünberg’s ghost was upset because Mário de Andrade’s name was more prominent than his in Makunaimï’s wanderings.

So the German felt guilty and authorized some of his student-doctors to share with the native communities photos that he took in the early 20th century – so some Taurepang, Makuxi, Ingarikó, Patamona, and Wapichana people might get some rest and catch up on their night’s sleep (some of these images are still on their way).


In the stones,
Among stones,
On the stones
We keep stories


Roseane Cadete and the Wapichana borduna. Photo by Wanderson Wapichana

Among the pieces reduced to ashes in the fire at the National Museum was a Wapichana borduna, dating from the 1920s. A borduna is a kind of club: a weapon – a defense tool. It can also be a paddle, a means of movement.

I was born in Curitiba, Paraná, far from the Wapichana village where my mother was born. When she returned to the land, my brother and I went along with her. I was introduced to Uncle Casimiro, Roseane’s grandfather and my grandmother’s brother, who encouraged me to learn our Wapichana language and to connect more deeply with our history. I was 11 years old. My uncle was born in the 1920s, like the borduna that was burned.


Granny Stone calls us.
Granny Stone orders us:
Go and light the maruai
Go and row with ancestral spirits
Make fires with branches of paricarana
Surround yourselves with caimbé leaves
Go seek the spirit of our history in the royal ashes

With prayers you make smoke from maruai,
you make resin from jatobá.
With urucum on your face
you make the paths of kuwazaza.


The borduna and the Bendegó meteorite. Photo by Wanderson Wapichana

In a dream, we received a message: we needed to connect to a new borduna. We engaged in a process of collective production, in what we also call ajuri. We researched in our memories the displacements and the extension of our original territories – the Kanau’Kyba, the paths of the Wapichana stones.

We conducted meetings in what we call “moving-workshops.” The research process occurred in our territory, in the Indigenous Land Canauanim. This movement was led by Roseane Cadete and her close relatives. The paths of the borduna took us to Curitiba, and then to Rio de Janeiro, through contacts we made with the National Museum.

Natural history museums must question their relations with the communities that produced the pieces that they house, and the circulation of these pieces. For us, the access to their dusty drawers, the so-called technical reserve, is part of a living process. It is part of a web of relationships, it is food for our sleep. It can actualize visions of our Indigenous history, both in the realm of emotions and in the elaboration of documents that legitimize our struggles.

Museums and ethnographic collections tend to impose a passive position on the communities to which they relate, thus persisting in a colonial dynamic. They insist on feeding the ghost of Koch-Grünberg, on perpetuating the oblivion of communities that continue to dream of their captured histories. Those who claim to advance projects of co-creation and sharing persist in exerting too much control, even when they open their doors.

The transformation of the museum space into a workshop creates a field of research into different forms of restitution. The moving-workshop is a gathering point that brings us into a collective-creative-active position, from which we can work on images-words-histories aligned with the production of collective and Indigenous-authored works.

We made a damorida of all this. We took the boiling pot for a ride through virtualities, Internet live castings, Whatsapp groups, magazines, poetry circuits, interviews, symposia, conferences, research projects, pamphlets, and works of art. These are our tools of struggle.


Find the mother stone fallen from the sky,
sing her song,
the song of the stones.
Sing, Bendegó,
stone of thunder.
Sing the slab of the gale,
carry the voices
from the Surrão stone,
from the Matá Matá slab,
from the Matrinchã slab.
Come to Graciosa,
listen to my Wapichana echo,
listen to the stories.
Turn into stones,
sing the stones.


Our knowledge is our weapon. Lucilene, Wanderson and Roseane. Photo by Gustavo Caboco

The spirit of the borduna was born in Canauanim-Curitiba. In search of a new home, it was donated to the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro in February 2021, then presented at the 34th São Paulo Biennial in September 2021. Now, we are in the process of handing it over to the Museum, but before that, the borduna needs to return to its community of origin. Our project performs an actualization of what is commonly called an artifact. It is a call to refresh the relations between communities and collections.

Among the pieces that survived the fire is the meteorite of Bendegó – a shaman who also wove dialogues with the Wapichana borduna. [+] We are producing a film and publication on Bendegó’s message, but this is a topic for another time, another stage of the Kanau’Kyba research and the moving-workshop [-] This stone resists, like memory.

This is the Borduna’s message: they will not erase our memory. We are talking about a part of ourselves.


Keep on bordunating
Among the fires, be caimbé
that resists the flames.
Resist to exist,
carry your ancestors,
grandpa maruai, grandpa jenipapo,
carry on with the winds from the gardens,
from the mountains, from the rivers,
on winds of resistance,
keep on rowing your rivers.

Thus said Granny Stone
and since then
we walk and walk
with Wapichana stone marks,
we keep on, resisting and echoing
on the paths of the Wapichana stones,
landmarks, history-stones.
They will not erase our memory.