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The Federal Constitution establishes that the responsibility for the safeguarding of cultural heritage shall be shared by all state entities. Moreover, alongside the federal policy, there are regional and local policies for intangible cultural heritage that generally align with national ones and the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. The national body with overall responsibility for protecting Brazil’s cultural heritage is the Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (IPHAN, National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage), which is relatively de-centralized with 27 Superintendence Agencies located in state capitals and federal districts, 27 Technical Offices in provincial towns, as well as four Special Units covering a considerable area of the country. The Departamento do Patrimônio Imaterial (DPI, Department of Intangible Heritage) was established before 2006 (the year of Brazil’s ratification of the 2003 Convention) with a staff of experts and a budget of its own and had already implemented several projects. In 2000, Presidential Decree no. 3551 provided the IPHAN with a specific policy on intangible cultural heritage safeguarding, through the creation of the Programa Nacional de Patrimônio Imaterial (PNPI, National Program on Intangible Heritage) and the institution of the Registro de Bens Culturais de Natureza Imaterial (Register of Intangible Cultural Properties), a legal instrument declaring cultural elements as ‘Brazilian Cultural Heritage’. The main relevant legislation is Law no. 01 (2009), which establishes the requirements for undertaking the National Inventory (INRC) and Resolution no. 001 (2013), which sets out the administrative process for the renewal of the title of the cultural heritage of Brazil.
Training courses in intangible cultural heritage management are offered by the IPHAN through its Post-Graduate Programme in Cultural Heritage as well as Free Courses in Intangible Cultural Heritage (offered by DPI) and the Free Course in Folklore and Popular Culture (offered by the Centro Nacional de Folclore e Cultura Popular, CNFCP). A Programa de Pós-Graduação Profissional em Patrimônio Cultural (PPGPPC, Professional Post-Graduate Programme in Cultural Heritage) is offered by the Universidade Federal de Santa Maria (UFSM, Federal University of Santa Maria). There is also a Training Course in Cultural Heritage Management and Cultural Property Rights, which is part of the Extension Programme in Cultural Heritage in the Amazon Region.
The IPHAN is the primary government institution in charge of producing and keeping documentation on intangible heritage in Brazil, acting in partnership with other research institutions under the IPHAN’s technical follow-up and supervision. Partnerships for documentation are also established at the regional and local government levels, and with society-based entities (non-governmental organizations), university institutions, museums and the National Library. The official identification of intangible cultural heritage is accomplished through two research instruments: the INRC, mentioned above, and the National Inventory of Linguistic Diversity (INDL). The main objectives, beyond identification, include: the production of information to support the development of other safeguarding actions; the construction of collections on intangible heritage; and the mobilization of the communities involved.
In Brazil, inventorying is undertaken under two frameworks. The first is the Inventário Nacional da Diversidade Linguística (INDL, National Inventory of Linguistic Diversity) for the identification of the languages spoken in the country, established in 2010. When a language is included in the INDL, it is automatically declared as intangible heritage that constitutes a ‘Brazilian Cultural Reference’. The second is the Inventário Nacional de Referências Culturais (INRC, National Inventory of Cultural References), established in 2000. Under the framework of the inventories, 160 sub-inventories (including those in-progress) have been carried out to date within both the INRC and the INDL. Over 500 cultural elements have been identified (i.e. related ethnographic research has been accomplished) and over 1,000 have been inventoried (listed). Intangible heritage elements for inventorying can be determined by either a ‘territorial’ or a ‘thematic’ focus and are seen as ‘cultural references’, i.e. cultural social practices that have significant relevance for communities. The level of ‘threat to viability’ is a decisive element in prioritizing inventory-making since the participatory process of knowledge production and documentation mobilizes communities and contributes to enhancing their capacity to preserve the threatened intangible heritage element.
Since the inventories are structured around the concept of ‘cultural reference’, the selection process is carried out by bearer communities themselves. Based on the cultural practices that exist in a certain place, communities indicate the elements considered most important and representative of their culture and only those elements will be included in the inventory. This selection process is participatory and the community always makes the decision about which elements will be identified as cultural references, with support from researchers and IPHAN staff, and from relevant non-governmental organizations. Community participation includes the following elements: the provision of their express consent; the establishment of inventory monitoring and follow-up; consultation about and the validation of the information produced; the inclusion of community researchers in research teams; and decision-making about the diffusion of the material and the format of the final products.
Efforts to promote greater awareness of the importance of intangible cultural heritage are numerous. The Declaration of Cultural Elements of Intangible Nature is essentially an instrument for the recognition, enhancement, and declaration of the heritage value through inscription in one of four Declaration Books: Festive Events; Skills and Crafts; Sites; and Forms of Expression. Once an element is inscribed, the Brazilian State becomes legally bound to coordinate actions to ensure its sustainability and to keep the documentation on the cultural element updated. The process of declaration involves: a formal request by bearer communities for the recognition of an intangible cultural heritage element as national heritage; the preparation of technical briefings and acceptance of the request; technical instruction (e.g. research, documentation, diagnosis of the element’s viability etc.); and appraisal by the Conselho Consultivo do Patrimônio Cultural (CCPC, Consultative Council on Cultural Heritage). The risk of disappearance is an important criterion for the prioritization of Declaration actions. The title of a declared element of ‘Brazilian Cultural Heritage’ must be renewed every ten years. This involves an assessment of the element’s current situation, any changes and the maintenance of the structural characteristics and reference values that justify its declaration. Although the frameworks for inventorying and declaring elements as national heritage are complementary, they have distinct purposes and should not be confused.
As part of the Declaration Dossier, safeguarding recommendations are made that then contribute to a safeguarding plan aimed at enhancing the social conditions for the production and reproduction of those elements. Other safeguarding activities are undertaken for both inventory elements and declared elements, for the purpose of addressing specific vulnerabilities and threats; these also include urgent activities. Demands for such actions come mostly from the communities themselves.
Considering the transversal nature of intangible heritage and its place in the daily life of communities, linking different public policies is essential to ensure effective safeguarding actions. Hence, the DPI has attempted to cooperate with other areas of the federal government as partners through agreements. These include, for example, the technical cooperation term between the IPHAN and the Instituto Nacional da Propriedade Industrial (INPI, National Institute of Industrial Property) and allowing IPHAN to grant access permits to traditional knowledge related to genetic resources for research purposes under a Resolution of the Environment Ministry. The IPHAN has a dedicated department for this purpose: the Linkage and Promotion Department.
Culture Points and Reference Centres have been set up that have enabled the development of such actions and consolidated the participatory aspect of safeguarding policies. This has been necessary because, when bearer groups have not organized themselves into legally established associations, they authorize a public or third-sector institution to manage public resources for safeguarding. Currently, there are 26 Culture Points/Reference Centres in operation, associated with specific declared elements. Support and promotion actions are also undertaken through projects developed by the CNFCP, such as the Support Programme to Handicraft Communities (PACA) set up in 1998.
Although it is not a compulsory subject in the education sector, intangible cultural heritage is addressed transversally in such disciplines as history, anthropology and Portuguese, depending on the region or municipality. Two relevant programmes are: Further Knowledge in Schools, which was designed to promote specific topics in elementary and high school curricula transversally with other disciplines through some pedagogic tools developed by the IPHAN to introduce local heritage elements; and the CNFCP educational programme, which has the goal of including popular culture in formal education and is targeted mainly at youth and educators, who are provided with advice and collections that are lent as school exhibits. Most traditional knowledge transmission occurs through non-formal means and support for the transmission of non-formal means of knowledge is mainly provided through the implementation of Safeguarding Plans, Culture Points and Reference Centres involving masters and students who are usually young members of the community. Measures to educate and raise the awareness of the general public concerning the protection of natural spaces and places of memory address the relationship between elements and their environments, and importance is given to sites and the ways of living of their bearer communities.
Insofar as bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation is concerned, Brazil cooperates actively with other countries, particularly those in Latin America and other Portuguese-speaking countries. This has been achieved primarily through its participation in multinational bodies, such as the Regional Centre for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Latin America (CRESPIAL), a Category 2 Centre under the auspices of UNESCO and based in Peru. Brazil participates in the project ‘Safeguarding of the African-descendant Intangible Heritage in Latin America’ with 14 other CRESPIAL member countries, as well as in the Promotion of the Guarani Cultural World project with Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.
‘Oral and graphic expressions of the Wajapi’ were incorporated into the Representative List in 2008 (following their initial proclamation as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2002). This has greatly contributed to local awareness of the importance of Kusiwa graphics within Wajapi society and the Wajapi, especially youth, have begun to have more interest in learning about their intangible cultural heritage. The safeguarding actions for Wajapi are aimed at building the group’s self-esteem, rather than focusing on graphic and oral traditions. They have two main action lines: one is targeted at Wajapi youth, while the other is aimed at making non-indigenous people aware of the importance of respecting the Wajapi way of life. While the increased visibility has attracted some private companies interested in using their graphic patterns in exchange for support for local projects, the Wajapi have decided not to permit such commercial use.
‘Samba de Roda of the Recôncavo of Bahia’ was also incorporated on the Representative List in 2008, having been proclaimed a Masterpiece in 2005. The social and material conditions for its production and reproduction have generally seen significant improvement, reducing the risk of its disappearance. A safeguarding process has stimulated its practice and gradually increased the interest of young people in learning and practising it; the number of Samba de Roda groups increased from 17 to 100 over 8 years. The Casa do Samba Reference Centre was opened in the main Samba region and adapted and equipped so that its spaces could be used for various activities (workshop spaces, an auditorium, dormitories, etc.). Events, encounters, seminars, lectures and presentations are organized there, including training for sambadores and their families and for young researchers.
The present reports on the inscribed elements were written in collaboration with the Consultative Council for the Wajapi safeguarding plan (comprising Wajapi leaders, IPHAN, the Museu do indio, the National Foundation for Indigenous People (FUNAI), the NGO Institute for Indigenous Research and Education) and, for Samba, the Associação dos Sambadores e Sambadeiras do Estado da Bahia (ASSEBA), a non-profit organization composed exclusively of bearers.

Sobre elementos de la Lista de salvaguardia urgente

El Yaokwa, ritual del pueblo enawene nawe para el mantenimiento del orden social y cósmico, inscrito en 2011


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The Yaokwa ritual integrates complex relationships of a symbolic order and links the domains of the society, culture and environment of the Enawene Nawe people. For seven months they commune with the Yakairiti, subterranean spirits who possess an insatiable hunger and must be fed. A constant exchange is established with these spirits to maintain the social and cosmic order of the group; those exchanges constitute the Yaokwa ritual and provide the main source of food for both the spirits and the Enawene Nawe themselves. Between 2007 and 2009, construction began on eight hydroelectric plants that damaged fish stocks in the region, thus jeopardizing the ritual and the source of food of this indigenous group. The main objective of the safeguarding is to protect the biodiversity of the region and the integrity of the belief system that governs the production and transmission of knowledge associated with the ritual.

In its Decision 6.COM 8.3 adopted at the time of inscribing this element on the Urgent Safeguarding List, the Committee expressed some concerns, in particular as to the degree of involvement of the Enawene Nawe in the implementation of the safeguarding plan. As a consequence of these concerns, the Committee invited Brazil to submit a report on the implementation of these measures, for examination by the Committee at its eighth session, in conformity with Paragraph 161 of the Operational Directives.

The Committee decided that the Yaokwa ritual ‘constitutes a pillar of the life and universe of the Enawene Nawe people, and the entire society, including the youngest members, is involved in its practice and transmission’ and so fulfilled criterion U.1. In its Decision, the Committee invited Brazil ‘to ensure that the safeguarding measures regarding the protection of the territory of the Enawene Nawe people are more fully associated with measures concerning the intangible cultural heritage aspects of Yaokwa’ and ‘to detail the safeguarding plan in order to define clearly the expenses and responsibilities and ensure the full participation of the community.’

Assessment of its viability and current risks

Generally, the focus in this report is on the quality and availability of environmental resources required for the continuity of the way of life of the Enawene Nawe people. Although this is a fundamental issue as reflected in Brazil’s nomination as regards criterion U.2, it cannot be separated from the cultural dimension of the ritual and the continued integrity of the belief system within which the ritual operates. As is mentioned in section B.1 of the report, the Yaokwa ritual integrates complex relationships of a symbolic order and links different domains of society, culture and nature.

The report notes several potential threats to and/or negative impacts on the element and its continued viability from: (i) the building of dams on the upper reaches of the river and the consequent reliance on frozen fish stocks supplied by outside agents; (ii) possible introduction of fish farming as a source of fish; (iii) exposure to pollution of the river system and lands by cattle ranching, mining activities and soya production in areas bordering their territory; (iv) the incorporation of petrol as an element of the ritual and the increased speed and distance of travel now possible (following the introduction of outboard motors); and (v) increased contact with the outside world, including the weekly telephone calls to the Instituto de Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (IPHAN).

Because of these rapid environmental and territorial changes the Enawene Nawe are becoming disorientated and make mistakes in the reading and interpretation of the natural signs, e.g. planting their maize too early and arriving too late at their traditional fishing spots, etc. In addition, the lack of fish in the rivers has compromised both the continuity of the element and the traditional subsistence fishing of the Enawene Nawe people. Since they organize their social life around the ritual it is also having serious social impacts on them.

The remoteness of the Enawene Nawe may, until recently, have helped to protect the element from outside interference but now makes it more difficult to apply safeguarding measures in the form of an Action Plan.

An important dimension of the safeguarding of this ritual is the potential impact – both negative and positive – of contact with outside agents and new technologies. For example, the replacement of rowing boats by boats equipped with outboard motors in the late 1990s has greatly facilitated activities associated with the Yaokwa ritual and so ‘shows that some Western objects have been successfully incorporated into the local system while reinforcing cultural traditions’ (section B.3c). This has also greatly increased their contact with the outside world and, now, the community members seek support from town councils, the Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI), IPHAN and NGOs to buy petrol that has become not only a necessary resource for the ritual but also integrated into its belief system – without it, the subterranean spirits will be angered.

Objectives and results

The safeguarding strategy presented by Brazil to the Committee had the dual aim of (a) strengthening the protection of the Enawene Nawe people’s environment and (b) strengthening their material, financial and organizational capacities in order to provide them with the means to manage and protect their land and to defend their interests with greater self-reliance.

In the measures described in the report, there is a tendency to focus heavily on protecting the Enawene Nawe’s land and its resources rather than on specific intangible cultural heritage safeguarding objectives, the latter not being very clearly set out. As a result, few measures or actions aimed at enhancing the viability of the ritual practices per se have been mentioned.

It would appear that the response thus far has been a rather pragmatic one in the face of the need for an emergency response and that neither of the two main objectives (preserving the area’s biodiversity and safeguarding the cultural practices of the Enawene Nawe) has yet been achieved. For example, the reliance on frozen or farmed fish mentioned in the report would fail to fulfil the first objective and would also be likely to undermine the second.

Safeguarding activities

The Yaokwa ritual was recognized as Brazilian Intangible Cultural Heritage in November 2010 by IPHAN, at the initiative of the Enawene Nawe people. This recognition places a legal obligation on the Government to put in place a 10-year safeguarding plan. However, it appears that this plan has not yet been fully developed and that the development of the plan depends upon the fulfilment of the fourth of the safeguarding activities undertaken thus far listed in section B.3b of the report and below:

  • Action 1: Ethnographic diagnostic of the current socio-cultural context of the element with the view of planning and implementing the safeguarding policy.
  • Action 2: Photographic record of the Yaokwa Ritual of 2012.
  • Action 3: Signing of a cooperation agreement for the transfer of funds from IPHAN to FUNAI to supplement the quantity of fish purchased for the Enawene Nawe people; this emergency action was carried out by FUNAI in order to prevent a food crisis.
  • Action 4: Meetings with representatives of different governmental institutions for the formulation of integrated and coordinated public policies for the Enawene Nawe.

The fourth action described is the precursor to defining specific safeguarding measures and part of the institutional context of the Plan. The detail of the ‘integrated and coordinated public policies’ planned is not made clear, nor the results of the meetings. The report consequently does not describe any safeguarding activities in detail, nor does it explain sufficiently their purpose or rationale.

The rationale behind the first action mentioned can be found in section B.3e which states that ‘there is almost no contact between this ethnic group and society surrounding their territories, a fact that makes their participation in the planning and implementing of safeguarding actions difficult.’

It should be noted that the third action described (supplementing the supply of fish through and Agreement with FUNAI) is an ‘emergency action’ and receives over US$200,000 in support (as compared with the US$23,000 provided for the first two listed actions). It would therefore have been helpful to receive more information about its rationale and potential long-term effects.

Timetable and budget

In the report, the four actions listed above are described as taking place in 2012. Despite the fact that the report appears to focus mostly on actions designed to respond to threats associated with the environmental resources on which the ritual relies, Action 1 suggests that future safeguarding approach will be more strongly oriented towards socio-cultural aspects. Action 2 also has a cultural basis and is aimed at responding to the documentation requirement of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. Action 3 is described as an emergency action. Action 4 directly responds to the need for a coordinated policy approach when dealing with the question of sustainability in relation to intangible cultural heritage and, as a result, is one that could be viewed as a good practice in this regard.

No further information is available concerning the planned measures or activities for the rest of the ten-year period of the plan (until 2020?) and so it is not possible to comment on this. It should be noted that ‘the completion of a safeguarding plan with the participation of this ethnic group is a challenge still to be faced in 2013’ (section B.4) which strongly suggests that the long-term Action Plan was not yet completed at the time of writing the present report.

Overall effectiveness of the safeguarding activities

The fact that IPHAN, the main implementing agency, does not have internal or external experts on the Enawene Nawe ethnic group constitutes a major challenge. Another important one that is presumably faced by other countries consists in having intangible cultural heritage elements whose safeguarding implicates environmental, social, economic and other relevant aspects of national policy-making.

In this sense, the institutional context and relationships surrounding the safeguarding of the element are an integral part of the element’s safeguarding. For example, meetings between IPHAN, the Enawene Nawe people and FUNAI with the companies constructing the hydroelectric dams and the Prosecutor’s Office have led to a temporary suspension of dam-building. Moreover, the Enawene Nawe will receive compensation of US$10,000 per month over 20 years, which will be used for purchasing fish, maintaining their boats and other essential items, thus supporting the continuity of the Yaokwa Ritual. Discussions are also being held with the Ministry of Fisheries in order to develop solutions for the lack of fish, such as the construction of fish farms and the appropriate training for the indigenous people to maintain them, which would then restock the river network of the Enawene Nawe lands.

Such initiatives are worthwhile and, of course, address important needs of the Enawene Nawe as regards both the sustainability of their way of life and the continuance of the ritual. However, it is extremely important that there should be continuous evaluation of how such measures affect the ritual and its social and cultural meanings over time.

Community participation in present and future safeguarding activities

It seems that at present, there is not yet a high level of community participation in the design or implementation of the safeguarding measures described in the report. The Departamento do Patrimônio Imaterial (DPI) of IPHAN has been making efforts to find appropriate ways of involving the community in this. However, those efforts have faced several problems; in particular, after 2011, it was impossible to maintain the partnership that had been developed between the Enawene Nawe and the non-governmental organization Operation Amazon Native (OPAN). During 2012, IPHAN attempted to conclude a contract with an expert on the Enawene Nawe ethnic group but has not yet managed to identify a suitable professional specialized in this field.

Given their remote location, the Enawene Nawe people mainly have contact through weekly telephone contact with the local office of IPHAN in Mato Grosso State to exchange information on the activities of both parties.

It is clearly not easy to engage the local population in safeguarding efforts and the difficulties in finding external experts concerning the Enawene Nawe people and the problem of the withdrawal of OPAN from the safeguarding process have prevented IPHAN from establishing a more effective dialogue with this indigenous group for participating in sustainable safeguarding actions. The previous direct contact with the group appears to have been based on a relationship built by an anthropologist from OPAN and so was a relationship built on personal contact rather than more permanent lines of communication.

Due to the withdrawal of OPAN in 2011 and the absence of IPHAN from the area until the end of 2012, community participation in the safeguarding process is still at an initial stage and few community-driven safeguarding activities have thus far been defined. The ten-day expedition to the village with an anthropologist and a photographer during the ritual period (for Action 2 above) renewed dialogue between IPHAN and the Enawene Nawe people.

It is stated in the report that the challenge of completing a safeguarding plan with the participation of the Enawene Nawe will be faced in 2013. The report notes also that community participation will not be effective without an inter-institutional agreement between the different government bodies that operate within the areas that affect the viability of the ritual.
Institutional context

Since 2012, the Department of Intangible Heritage of the National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage (DPI/IPHAN) has been leading the safeguarding measures. The Operation Amazon Native (OPAN) represented the Enawene Nawe people between 2006 and 2011 in their communication with the Government, e.g. over declaring the Yaokwa ritual as a cultural heritage of Brazil and has worked on the ritual under the supervision of anthropologists from the local IPHAN office in Mato Grosso and the DPI/IPHAN. As mentioned before, in 2011, as a result of misunderstandings with the indigenous community, OPAN pulled out of the relationship.

IPHAN has built a relationship with the FUNAI, the government agency charged with the preservation of indigenous communities, and they now have a Technical Cooperation Agreement with the Foundation to supply fish for the ritual. They have also worked with the Federal Prosecutors Office, the Ministry of Fisheries and the companies responsible for the construction of hydroelectric plants on the Juruena River on various aspects of protection.

No specific association of the Enawene Nawe people exists and there is no information on who are the representatives of this group, what is their role and how are they representative of the group as a whole.

Participation of community in preparing the report

The remoteness of the bearer community and the fragility of communications with them have meant that they have not been directly involved in or consulted over the writing of the report.