"For a long time, the body painting was little-used and almost lost. The elders… have been teaching us the meaning of colors and patterns, and they are used in our rites and festivities."
Tohõ Pataxó is a teacher and a community leader of the Pataxó Indigenous community living in the Pé do Monte Pataxó village located in the state of Bahia, Brazil
The Pataxó people were nomads, and they moved throughout the forests and fished in the rivers. But with the deforestation and occupation of their ancestral lands, they moved to the seaside, and many were dispersed and later concentrated in native villages. For years, they have been struggling to have their land demarcated as set forth in the Brazilian Constitution.
"Since the age of eleven, I have lived in Aldeia Pé do Monte. In 2008, I started teaching Patxôha, the Pataxó language, and our culture in a small school in our village. An important part of our culture is body painting, which represents part of our history, everyday feelings and the sacred.
"For a long time, the body painting was little-used and almost lost. The community is making an effort to recover this tradition. The elders of the village have been teaching us the meaning of colors and patterns, and they are used in our rites and festivities.
"There are body painting patterns for men and for women. I paint them on clothes and canvas and would sell my work to tourists visiting our village. But with the pandemic, they are not coming. In addition to a livelihood, it is also a way to show part of our culture. To preserve our culture and ensure a land for the new generations is a constant and ongoing struggle."