Cássio Diniz Santiago — Aug 18, 2021
The ways of organizing this society in which we live – or rather the society called the Western world – need urgent revision and radical change. The predatory culture that permeates the world and aims only at profit logic without considering serious social consequences narrows the possible perspectives that can bring new forms of existence and new possibilities of organization. Adult humans act like children who do not understand what they see, the big picture, and therefore cannot access the Xapiri spirits and the sense of responsibility for the current state of affairs. With an arrogance inherited from different moments in Western cultural history, it is impossible to understand the problems and difficulties that world citizens have to face. It seems foolish to try to preserve our own lives by destroying life itself. Considering that at the moment children are taking the leading places of responsibility, it seems that adults lost access to the world of the Xapiri spirits a long time ago.
Xapiri spirits are what is called knowledge, but they are also living knowledge and living entities, even if they are understood as images. So you could call them living images. Xapiri spirits neither separate knowledge from affection, nor technology from existence. Everything that has been separated in Western culture is connected in the Xapiri spirits. It is therefore a knowledge that does not even need the word transdisciplinary, because it is inherently so from the beginning.
How is possible that a culture like the Yanomami, which for thousands of years has preserved its environment on the Amazon without leaving a trace, and most of all possesses deep knowledge on how to live better, be neglected as primitive? How can the phantom words of our books and our lost memory take the place of life itself and distort perception so that inanimate, industrial, and conceptual objects take the place of living beings themselves?
We are ruled by cans of beer or cars; no longer by gods or Xapiri spirits. The symbolic universe was transferred to objects that are the result of the destruction of life. They are objects of destruction because it is not possible to be governed by objects that need our own blood to exist, because it is our blood that feeds the machines, which in turn depend on the extraction of minerals among other forms of devastation.
The loss of contact with the Xapiri spirits and with the universe that Western culture calls symbolic, has created the rigidity of these objects produced to replace life’s impermanence and fragility. Yes, through technology there is an immense capacity for communication, but current Western communication seems to be a Tower of Babel. In this Tower, the problem may not be the different languages, but the fact that nobody listens to each other.
Cássio Diniz Santiago, Sudden dream of the reason, pencil on paper, 2021. Courtesy of the artist
For that, Xapiri spirits are the image-beings that accompany every moment, every gesture, every passage, and that have their own wisdomin protecting us, in being angry with us, in accompanying every small gesture of nature. It is the spirits that accompany the reading of this text. Xapiri spirits cannot be translated, but conditions can be created for them to visit us and thus even without a possible translation, we can understand them. And, perhaps in this way the Xapiri can find their way back, to dance for us within our dreams, offering their protection and wisdom.
As Davi Kopenawa says, »Your children need to learn to dream. Dream on this path to walk, fight, and speak together against destructive men. Because destructive men are many. They are powerful marea sikï. Marea sikï means money. We Indigenous people, we live without money. To this day we live without money. Our money is food. Food for the people who use the wealth of Maxita-Uhiri. Take care, not to let it be destroyed, not to let our forest be deforested. Do not let the destruction of our rivers, our streams, our health, our beauty of the great soul of Maxita-Uhiri happen.«
The work of Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert in theb ook The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman is an example of listening. The book offers an opportunity to listen to Yanomami culture, which has been preserved aurally and where words are not detached from context, as they are in Western culture.
Evidently, in some way, each word transported from one context to another through writing is untranslatable. The experiences of life are untranslatable through written words. It is necessary to live an experience, and not only to read about it. It is known that only those who have been through this or that can understand this or that. This is a common expression in this world that we call the world, but there are many different worlds, and right now, many of them are disappearing while others are being created.
The dance of creation and destruction seems far from our influence, but it is performed by each one of us at every moment. Questioning assumptions that are considered fundamental, asking not only what the concept is, but what the concept of the concept is, crossing the veil of illusion built by reason over time, is perhaps a way of authorizing different ways of life to be alive.
Cássio Diniz Santiago, born 1973 in São Paulo, Brazil, is a performance artist, theater and dance director, dramaturg, and researcher. He earned his bachelor’s degree in performing arts at the State University of Campinas, Brazil and from 2017 to 2019, studied choreography and performance at Giessen University in Germany. His performance, theater, dance, and multidisciplinary art projects have been presented at the São Paulo Biennial, Modern Art Museum of São Paulo, Baltic Circle International Theatre Festival, Akademie der Künste, Kunstlerhaus Mousonturm, SESC SP, and other venues. In 2015, he was an Art, Science, and Business fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude. He also works as an educator and curator. He has lived and worked in Germany since 2017.
© 2023 Akademie Schloss Solitude and the author