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Cacique of the Nambikwara

The leader of the Nambikwara, photographed at an indigenous people's meeting in Betioga, Brasil. Photo by Tatiana Cardeal.

" 'Cacique' means the Indian tribal chief. He is the leader of the 'People from the Ashes' and he emphasized it to me when I asked permission before taking his portrait.

They have a special ritual for this nose piercing. They do it to mark the puberty's masculine passageway, were the boy should show courage, firmness and spiritual power.

I looked to this photo more then a hundred times. First, i'm still asking why he was looking to me so deep. Second, i just can't believe that i did this one.

The Nambikwara live on the Mato Grosso State's west and Rondônia State from Brazil. Population about 998, in 1999."

The image and narrative above belongs to Tatiana Cardeal, from São Paulo, Brasil. Her images give flesh to people and tribal groups that are otherwise known to us via documentaries, statistics and stereotypes. And I'm the first to admit that I've generally lumped the tribes of the South American rainforest into an amorphous group and with little appreciation for the possibility that each group owns a history, a langauge and an understanding of life that is every bit as rich (even richer, according to many first-hand accounts) than our own.

I can't fathom what it means to be a person of the forest. Indeed, some of Tatiana's photos reinforce the fact that although we inhabit the same globe, we First-Worlders and the peoples of the rainforest are on different planets. But, occasionally, there's a glimpse of something familiar: a young child, distracted by curiosity, a musician lost in his composition, or silly girls mugging for the camera.

Deservingly, Tatiana has developed a huge following on her blog as well as her Flickr site. At both sites, she features her photographs along with haunting narratives.

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