Carõ - The Crowds of the Forest
Carõ - Multidões da Floresta, João Salaviza e Renée Nader Messora
Carõ - Multidões da Floresta, João Salaviza e Renée Nader Messora
Carõ - Multidões da Floresta, João Salaviza e Renée Nader Messora
Carõ - Multidões da Floresta, João Salaviza e Renée Nader Messora
Carõ - Multidões da Floresta, João Salaviza e Renée Nader Messora
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Carõ - the crowds of the forest
An exhibition by João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora
23 February to 9 June


Carõ: the crowds of the forest offers a perspective of the conceptions of death that exist in the cosmology of the Krahô indigenous people, by exploring the aesthetic and political power of its representation in mythology, songs and ritual life.
This cosmology revolves around the krahô concept of the carõ: the "soul" or "vital principle" that animates all things in the world, and also refers to reflections and shadows. Through an extension of its meaning it has recently been used to designate photographs, videos, and films. Carõ is a word with multiple meanings that can be translated in different ways. The carõ is linked to images that have various different ontological statuses and, although always associated to a reference body, it may forego this body and intervene in the world autonomously.
When the body falls ill or simply falls asleep, a person’s carõ often moves away, to visit a deceased relative or go for a walk in the forest, or in the city, and this wandering produces dreams. However, if this separation is prolonged for too much time, it may become definitive and, consequently, lead to death: the person’s carõ thereby becomes a mẽcarõ, a "spirit" or "double" of a dead human body. The mẽcarõ appreciate the forest, night and darkness, while the Krahô ("the living ones") see themselves as inhabitants of the clear, sunny spaces. In the different versions of the afterlife - a subject that is always open to speculation - the most common interpretation is that the carõ, when detached from the human body, suffers further deaths, successively transforming and taking various forms: animal, plant, stone, tree stump, until it becomes nothing ...
About a year after his or her death, the family of the deceased person assembles to perform the Pàrcahàc, a ritual of mourning governed by the visual and sound itinerary proposed herein.
For the Krahô, who don’t worship the dead and reject the idea of inheritance, this is the moment to terminate the relationship with the deceased's carõ, bidding farewell to any associated nostalgia or memories. The name of this ritual is also elucidative in this regard: while pàr designates "tora" (tree trunk), the term cahàc refers to that which "seems but isn’t". Thus, more than a symbol, the "tora" (tree trunk) is the dead person, an "image" of his or her body that is reproduced to be remembered for the last time, weeping and rejoicing, before it is forgotten forever.

The Krahô people form part of a wider sociocultural community, made up of six other Amerindian groups, known as the Timbira peoples. These people call themselves mẽhĩ ("our flesh" or simply "us, humans") and speak various dialects of the same root language, belonging to the Jê linguistic family. They differentiate themselves from other Amerindian peoples by certain shared characteristics, such as ornamentation of their bodies and the way they cut their hair, the circular form of their villages, the practice of running with tree trunks and a vast corpus of myths and rituals.
Formerly, the Krahô occupied a large territory in Central Brazil, which has now been reduced to the Krahô Indigenous Territory, demarcated in the 1940s after a massacre perpetrated by farmers in the region, in which over 20 indigenous people were murdered. The last census (2018) estimated that the current Krahô population is about 3500 individuals, who live in 35 villages scattered within the indigenous territory. This territory is an important continuous area of preservation of the Cerrado, a biome that harbours tremendous biological and cultural diversity. The Cerrado is also known as "the cradle of waters", because it shelters the sources of Brazil’s main hydrographic basins, including the Amazon basin. Due to the interests of agribusiness and the world commodity market, the Cerrado is currently one of the world’s most threatened ecosystems and is devastated on a daily basis, with the connivance of a significant section of Brazil’s political class.
The Krahô do not perceive the Cerrado and its inhabitants simply as a "means" or a "resource" to be explored. On the contrary, they conceive the Cerrado as a complex vital web, composed of humans, plants, animals, spirits and other subjects who think, feel and act in the world. Through ancient coexistence and intense interaction with these other inhabitants, the Krahô have developed sophisticated ecological knowledge, transmitted from one generation to the next through stories, songs and rituals. The life of the Cerrado is thus inseparable from the presence and knowledge of indigenous peoples, who stand at the forefront of a battle that concerns the planet as a whole.