Lands for the “retaking”: Pataxó cultural recovery

BY Centro de Documentação e Estudos Memórias do Sul da Bahia, Atxohã, | POSTED IN All Projects

For a very long time, the Pataxó indigenous culture from Northeast Brazil was dormant, invisible and forgotten, as the simple fact of being indigenous was a trigger for discrimination and persecution. But since the re-democratization process in Brazil, which began in the 1980s, indigenous people have started a recovery movement that we have called “the retaking”.

“The retaking” comprises the recovery of indigenous traditional lands and culture by the youngest generations. They are retrieving the knowledge of their elders to reconnect themselves with their history and their culture, strengthening their Pataxó identity and thus avoiding its disappearance.

The most important aspects of the retaking are: the recovery of Pataxó language, the recovery of Pataxó local ritual practices and the recovery of traditional techniques for the production of crafts, done by contemporary Pataxó artists. As a result, this process has contributed to Pataxó land claims, the vindication of indigenous rights and the search for ways to implement a Pataxó approach to education.

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The aim of this project, as part of the retaking movement, is to create a digital collection called “Pataxó, Lands for the retake” through a process of collaborative curatorship among the research group Centro de Documentação e Estudos Memórias do Sul da Bahia, located in the Centro de Formação em Ciências Sociais at the Universidade Federal do Sul da Bahia (CFCHS/UFSB), and the research group Língua e História Pataxó – Atxohã, an online independent research group organized by Pataxó indigenous leaders.

The research group Língua e História Pataxó – Atxohã has a long and consolidated trajectory in the meridional region of the state of Bahia, and has a strong presence among more than thirty indigenous communities located in Pataxó lands. This allows us to engage in a process of co-curation where the members of Atxohã will have a central role: They will be part of the collection building from its design to its administration, as well as undertaking the research needed to choose the material to be collected.


For this selection process, they will work in consultation with the indigenous elders, who will express their perspective in terms of oral history. Moreover, the co-curation process will include the participation of the best Pataxó contemporary artists of today, including Arissana Pataxó, Oiti Pataxó and Jerry Matalawê.

A project such as this will have important political and social implications for the Pataxó community in general. Through collaborative research and the digitization of written, oral and iconographic accounts, among others, the collection “Lands for the retaking”, will ultimately facilitate the demarcation of the Pataxó lands, many of which are still under litigation.


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Also, through the process of co-curation, we hope to de-colonize the authorized, western ways how collections are arranged, de-constructing the idealization of indigenous people that takes place among western museums. Finally, the collection will allow us to propose alternative memory frameworks and alternative historical narratives which will contribute to a better understanding of the Pataxó world and of the creative work of Pataxó craftspeople and artists.