Promoting extensive cultural exchange between the Guarani Kaiowá peoples who live around Dourados in Mato Grosso do Sul and the city’s general population. This was the main aim of the project Words that Cure – the Guarani Kaiowá Art of Resistance, which the Casulo Cultural Association (Associação Cultural Casulo) has been running in the city since April. The initiative received support from CESE’s Small Projects Programme.
The programme included the Philosophical Chrysalis, an arena for debates involving a psychologist, a Guarani Kaiowá nurse and the indigenous master Teresinha Aquino, discussing the theme of “Burnt down Prayer Houses and violence against the guardians of traditional knowledge”. The Teresinha community’s Prayer House was burnt down in December 2021 in a fundamentalist hate crime.
With support from Casulo, the community has rebuilt its worship house. As a way of thanking the association, it was invited to the reopening of the Prayer House. This involved another part of the Words that Cure project programme, a Festival of Indigenous Music, in which five indigenous groups from five different communities participated.
Another part of the programme involved local artists mounting an Exhibition of Kaiowá Life, which presented worked created through exchanges between indigenous and non-indigenous artists in the city. At the exhibition’s opening, films were also screened – small documentaries produced by indigenous people in partnership with academic groups, and a bilingual book was launched, translated from Guarani to Portuguese.
Artists have also illustrated the Guarani Kaiowá dictionary, produced by Graciela Chamorro, Casulo Cultural Association President, in partnership with indigenous teachers and other scholars. Another important moment was a meeting between a Mata Grosso do Sul urban dance group and indigenous communities from Amambai (also in Mata Grosso do Sul), who exchanged musical experiences including dance and song.
“Art, like various other cultural expressions, including religion, is about finding meaning in life. For us, culture and art are connected to resistance, survival, something essential. For us as an organization, it is very important to approach these people’s way of life, way of being. Both to learn this art with them, and to support their initiatives of resistance,” Graciela declared.
Support from CESE
The Casulo Cultural Association is already a CESE partner. In 2020, the group ran the Pathway to the Waters project, which aimed to take drinking water to areas reclaimed by indigenous people. In principle, the project was created to reach 500 people, but, following support from the Small Projects Programme, more than 2500 people benefitted. This was the first time the association had received support of this kind.
“Casulo had never received support from any organization. Up to 2020, we’d always worked with our own funds, from Casulo associates and friends, and occasionally from grant funding. Now, once again, we’ve been able to expand our activities to meet certain expenditure we didn’t have funding for – to help some indigenous people pay for housing, to bring in other, more distant, communities, enabling this exchange, this give and take. So, it was hugely important to carry out and expand the project. For us, it is interesting to meet these institutions that work in dialogue with our ideas, that think like us and aim to strengthen organizations,” declared Júlia Aissa Vasconcelos Oliveira, the association’s Manager and Producer.