Being a Fulni-ô Woman Today
I met Dxonne for the first time in 2003, when my family and I traveled into the interior of Brazil to visit a world-renowned healer named John of God. We bought a few pieces of jewelry from her, played with her kids, and watched her and her partner perform some traditional dances. It was an experience that I remembered long after the other details of that trip faded away.
I met Dxonne for the second time this year, while traveling back to see that same healer with my mother. It took me a while to realize who she was, and before I figured it out, I had already decided that I wanted interview her. Once I did start recording, I was amazed at the ease with which she carried herself in front of the camera; for someone who has probably had little experience being filmed, she spoke slowly, clearly, and comfortably, eager to tell me about the culture she is so proud of.
Dxonne grew up in an indigenous village in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco. At home, she spoke Yaathe, the language of her tribe, the Fulni-ô, and only learned to speak Portuguese once she started school. To this day, she speaks it fluently, but with a barely perceivable accent. When Dxonne was 8 years-old, white men began to build roads into her village. She says that things were better before they came, but that at the same time the opening up of her community to globalization has changed the perspective of her people. They value the land more, now that they have been exposed to people who do not value it enough.
She and her three children now live in a town called Abadiânia in the state of Goias. She went there originally because she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and was going to John of God’s healing center. Since then, her cancer went away, and she stayed in Abadiânia, selling the indigenous jewelry she makes to the international tourists who come to see John of God. Her dream is to make enough money to be able to buy a house in Pernambuco, where her tribe lives. She wants her children to grow up among the Fulni-ô, and she misses her family and community. But for now, she has a ways to go before she can afford the move, and she is left selling feathers to spiritual tourists.
I was honored to interview Dxonne about what it is like to be an indigenous woman living away from her community. I hope you find her words as moving as I did.