07/03/2018 - Culture

Between women ....



It is only they who carry out the work; sometimes they even weave while they are breastfeeding. Often, the mask is left there half finished, they put it down carefully to prepare the meal returning to weave a little later and work on it little by little so that the mask takes shape slowly in the middle of family life.


The women work amongst themselves, in the middle of children playing, laughing and running. They are rarely alone, and there are always high spirits from conversation and laughter. Solitude does not exist in the tribe; they come and go from one house to another not really knowing who the children there belong to, because they are everywhere.


The women talk and laugh with me. I stay with them, I live there and I am just one more woman. But I have never felt like a stranger amongst them.

There is very little curiosity on their part, which has always surprised me. From the first I have always felt fine, accepted for who I am, in spite of my peculiarities. For example I have red hair, which amuses the children and surprises the women, and it is short which is obviously a lack of taste.


I live with them; I come and go without attracting any attention. No one really looks at me and no one questions me. Once the day’s work is finished we stay together and I join in all their conversations. Of course the one that I am listening to, or the one that I am talking to will always be flattered, in the same way that often one or another of them likes to tell me about the things she uses to dye her hair or remove her body hair. But the fact of speaking to me or getting my attention may be pleasant for them but is not an end in itself. I have become part of the group.


I wear the Paruma as well, which is the most comfortable clothing. In the rainy season, the villages are infested with mosquitoes and I have to dress to cover up completely. When I travel by canoe though, I prefer to wear trousers. But when I am sitting, I dress like them and walk barefoot inside the house to respect their customs. In the house, the , everyone eats and even sleeps on the floor.


The men are not often present in our organization and rarely with us. Generally they leave at dawn for the day and sometimes for several days, working their little patches of land where they produce rice, yams and a little coffee for the family.


If we need them, they are there to help us with the logistics of transporting bags, steering canoes from one village to another. But generally we are alone. It does not concern the husbands and an understanding is established between us immediately.


We talk, laugh and work without anything disturbing this simplicity. No social etiquette and no mistrust. When I have time, they explain to me how they dye their hair with the juice of the same fruit that they use to dye the of the masks black and they paint my body as they would paint each other.


Sometimes in the evening I join them when the children are sleeping on the bare floor or on their knees. I also sit on the floor and I join in the conversation. I never question but I learn so much.


It is at nightfall that tongues loosen. They speak of the rituals of puberty, stories about their husbands, the conversation jumps from one subject to another. They love to talk and tell their stories.


These are the magical moments of my work.