amazon

The play goes on - Projeto BIRA (Brazil)

"Ever since I was a kid, I've had a strong desire to travel all over Brazil, to get to know its diverse realities firsthand. When I'd travel with my parents, my eyes fixated on the landscape passing by, and I'd imagine myself visiting each little house on the side of the highway. I'd invent names and destinies for those kids with barefoot bodies whose eyes gazed into the wind, and for those old folks with crooked canes who spent hours on crooked benches in the shade of jacaranda trees . . . The childhoods and games in each place I passed were what always attracted me the most." - Renata Meirelles, How it all Began, Projeto BIRA

A few years ago - when I was getting started with BRINQ - I was thrilled to come across the work of Renata Meirelles and David Reeks, a Brazilian American couple that was working hard to document and share the toys and games of the Brazilian Amazon. Their stories of what they discovered and shared were truly inspirational and I had hoped to meet up with them on one of their trips back to the U.S. Unfortunately the timing didn't work out and I have since moved on to other projects, leaving my task of building a global toy chest sadly neglected. However a recent discussion on the Omidyar Network about recycled crafts and toys sent me looking for David and Renata's work once again and I was delighted to see what they've been doing in all this time.

Preserving the local soil - Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice

“Every time a shaman dies, it is as if a library burned down.” - Mark J. Plotkin, PhD

Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice

The old caboclo woman stopped abruptly in her explanation of the plant in her hand and stared to the back of our group, at the tall, sun-browned, shirtless man who had just stepped into her garden.  “Ele é índio?” the old midwife asked excitedly, “ele entende muito de plantas, ervas, remédios?!” The newcomer had been just about to snap a photo of the scene but the force of old woman's reaction startled him into almost dropping his camera. He turned to my girlfriend Amber and I with a confused look, “What did she just say?” 

I chuckled out loud and translated for him while Amber explained to the old woman that no, our friend Kenny was neither a “native” nor from the jungle, that he was originally from Hong Kong and - as an energy trader on Wall Street – Kenny’s particular knowledge of stocks and plants probably wasn’t quite what the old woman was hoping for. The midwife’s mistake was easy enough to understand though: a dark brown, muscular man with long raven-black hair, Kenny looked like a piece of history stepping out of the jungle. In fact, most of the people we had met during our weeklong tour of riverside communities had made the same mistake about Kenny’s heritage.  What surprised me instead about the old midwife’s reaction was that even though practically a medicine woman herself - born and raised in the Amazon - she still seemed desperate to pump an outsider for his knowledge of local plants and medicines.

A Playful Exchange - O Projeto BIRA (Brazil)

Projeto BIRA (Brincadeiras Infantis da Região Amazônica) is all about playful exchange: an effort to document and share the games and play cultures of Amazonian communities in the north of Brazil.Boy playing with a topProjeto BIRA (Brincadeiras Infantis da Região Amazônica) is all about playful exchange, an effort to document and share the games and play cultures of Amazonian communities in the north of Brazil:

This project is totally focused on games that are carried out by children, in areas where spontaneity is the principal means of communication and where the forest and its embellishments are the source for materials and challenges that motivate a diverse range of actions. These actions are easily recognized by parents, grandparents, and ancestors who play along in some form, even if it's only through a look that conveys the recognition: "Ahhh, I know how to play that." [StreetPlay.com]

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