Going to the Third International Conference on Community Land and Resource Rights held in Stockholm, I did not expect to find myself in the middle of the Amazon sharing a canoa with a member of the Waurá tribe.
During the lunch break I saw my colleague wearing a set of these huge black Virtual Reality (VR) goggles, making wired movements and turning on her own axis like a dog trying to catch its own tail. It looked absurd and I had to try it out myself. For seven minutes I got the opportunity to delve deeper into the life of an Amazonian indigenous tribe, learning about the culture, rituals and habits of the Waurá.
The Waurá is an indigenous tribe, which lives in the Upper Xingu River region, in the first indigenous Park of Brazil. Created in the river basin in the early 1960s, it is the first indigenous territory recognized by the Brazilian government and the Waurá are one of the 15 tribes living in this territory.
During the first cut I am standing in the middle of a village surrounded by around 30 Waurá members just decorated in their traditional body paintings and jewellery made out of treasures from the rainforest. All of them stand still and stare at me. I am turning around 360 to get an impression of my surrounding. I have to hold myself back in order to not interact with the people around me, keeping in mind that I am actually in Stockholm at a conference and don’t want to embarrass myself.
In the next moment I am sitting on a canoa, in front of me a Waurá member is paddling over a vide silt up river surrounded by nothing but the jungle. After this they take me to one of their traditional ceremonies with chanting and ritual dancing. In the evening everyone mingles to watch football on a flat screen located in one of the huts – a live between modern era and tradition. Then the movie ends by stressing the issues the tribes of the Xingu Indigenous Park are facing through forest fires, just right before I got too dizzy.
VR is a new communication tool launched by Instituto Socioambiental, a Brazilian NGO that works with defending social and collective rights and the rights, related to the environment and cultural heritage of indigenous people in the Amazon. This is the first VR movie about indigenous habitants ever. It gives viewers the opportunity to go on a trip to the Amazon and become aware about traditions, culture and habitat of the Waurá people.
This way Socioambiental hopes to reconnect people from cities with the indigenous traditions of the country they are sharing and to encourage respect for their habitat. “We want people to understand how important it is to secure the rights of indigenous people in the Amazon so they can keep their heritage alive, to save the environment and to fight climate change, all this in a fun and accessible way,“ says Bruno Weiß from Socioambiental.