Tessellar Blog

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Yanomamö: 'shabono' and 'waiteri'

There is the idea of the 'noble savage', and then there is the Yanomamö, a tribal people thinly scattered deep in the jungles of southern Venezuela and north-western Brazil. Men sport nothing more than a few cotton strings around their wrists, ankles, and waists. They tie the foreskins of their penises to the waist string. Women dress about the same. Life is relatively easy in the sense that they can ‘earn a living’ with about three hours’ work per day.



The Yanomamö are an aggressive people: at least one-fourth of all adult males die a violent death. Ferocity, ‘waiteri’, is perceived as a male virtue. Wife beating is common. They still engage in their traditional warfare, staging hit-and run raids to abduct women. Within the village, violence often stems from sexual affairs, failure to deliver a promised woman, or wife-stealing, and may lead to villages splitting up.





But the tribes, defined by kinship, live in visually striking circular communal huts, called the ‘shabono’, thatched lean-tos with an open courtyard in the middle reserved for ceremonies and other public activities such as games. Families take up segments within this cylindrical structure, each with their own hearth. A typical ‘shabono’ shelters 70 people.



Napolean Chagnon:'Doing Fieldwork among the Yanomamö',pdf download;
The Ax Fight, 1975, movie


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