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The visible and the invisible

Everyday life in the Xingu has been well documented ever since the campaign for demarcation. Journalists, filmmakers, artists and anthropologists have documented rituals and celebrations, graphic art and body painting, the architecture of houses, and the customs of their inhabitants.

In the 1950s, in extensive reports for O Cruzeiro, Henri Ballot presented images of traditional rituals in the Upper Xingu to the public for the very first time; the celebrations of Jawari and Kuarup: the ceremony that pays tribute to the dead.

After demarcation, the frequency of this documentation grew. Adrian Cowell and Jesco von Puttkamer produced documentaries accompanied by the Villas Bôas brothers in the 1960s. The following decade, Maureen Bisilliat captured images that are still strongly associated with the Xingu today.

The ethnographical leanings of this journalism are most clearly visible in images from the field work of anthropologists such as Robert L. Carneiro. And recent films by indigenous filmmakers capture the ritualistic dimension of life in these communities, while also contributing to their survival.