Art is essential to show that we exist

Art is essential to show that we exist

Nei Leite Xakriabá: "Art is essential to show that we exist"

Indigenous professor highlights the importance of preserving and transmitting traditions in the fight against prejudice and for greater rights for indigenous populations
Nei Leite Xakriabá lives in Aldeia Barreiro Preto, one of more than 35 on the Xakriabá Indigenous Land. Graduated in indigenous education from UFMG, the artist worked in teaching young Xakriabás in subjects that keep the traditional culture of his people alive in schools.
In his master's thesis “Xakriabá Indigenous Art: with one foot in the village and another foot in the world”, Nei Leite discusses his work with ceramics and the transmission of habits and customs as a form of resistance to indigenous culture and giving visibility to the struggle of the people.

He is one of the artists whose work is presented in the exhibition “Water is the mother of the earth”, at the Museum of Arts and Crafts, in Praça Rui Barbosa, Centro de BH, until November 4th. He spoke to EM in his studio in indigenous land about the importance of perpetuating culture in the struggle of the Xakriabás. Read the main points of the interview below.

How did the resumption of ceramics work help the education of young indigenous people?

I have worked for more than 20 years as a teacher in this area of traditional arts and practices and one of the works I have been doing is resuming practices with ceramics. Talking to older people and developing workshops with children to try to bring back this practice that, in the past, was very present. Ceramics circulated a lot in people's homes, pots, pans, these objects that over time and with all the violence that happened in our territory were lost. We became more interested in these industrialized plastic and aluminum objects that also cause a lot of damage to the environment.

This is also a way to generate income. I have already participated in some exhibitions and fairs outside the city. I've already made some trips to other states, I even went to Europe in 2022 to participate in a workshop, I did an online exhibition in Turkey. Just now I sent some pieces to the Latin American art biennial that will take place in China. So, it's a practice that was dormant and today it's back with a vengeance.

Can teaching traditional practices be an alternative to generating income within the Indigenous Land? What is the impact of your work in this regard?

My work with ceramics has a lot to do with the relationship we have with animals, the earth and the water itself. When I thought about making moringa, I thought a lot about this thing that it is used to store water and, for us, water is a big problem. Our cerrado is kind of like a big sponge for absorbing water, but this water, with this issue of lack of rain or deforestation itself, which has increased, has dried up. She hasn't even fed this sponge.