30 October 2014
Eliza Suruí sits on a palm mat she wove herself, in the shade of her family's maloca, or dwelling. It is a hot September afternoon in the Brazilian Amazon. She picks a tucunnut from the basket in front of her and using a large, very sharp knife, carefully breaks the shell into several pieces. With a foradera, a pointed tool, she pierces a fragment, creating the smallest of holes. Then, reaching again for her knife, she whittles the shell into a rounded bead, not more than three millimeters in diameter. "It's only the beginners who cut themselves," says Kabena Cinta Larga, one of Eliza's fellow artisans. "It's not as dangerous as it seems, once you have practice."
The women are part of the Paiter-Suruí community, a group of indigenous people who live in more than 20 villages deep within the Amazon in the Brazilian states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso. The Suruí's first contact with the world beyond their villages and surrounding forest came in 1969, after which the community was decimated by disease. Now, they are gradually recovering and strengthening their community under the leadership of Chief Almir Suruí, successfully fending off threats to their home, the forest, from illegal mining and logging.
Read more from the Huffington Post blog