Developed in partnership with Mehinako artisans, in Alto Xingu, a line of products created by Maria Fernanda Paes de Barros arise from the meeting of the past and the future to build a new present

It is amazing how vision, after immersive experiences in ancestral cultures, begins to have a greater sensitivity to see new ways of bringing our origin to contemporary world. It is along this path that Maria Fernanda Paes de Barros, artist, researcher and founder of Yankatu, travels. With her soul absorbed by the profound experiences of the places she goes through, Maria Fernanda, in her own way, captures a dose of each learning experience, bringing to surface revelations in form of pieces filled with value, as a manifest for the benefit of Brazilian identity. “Each trip I make, I become humbler, I perceive differences from new angles, relearning to see and understand meanings through the other's place”, explains the artist.

For the new Xingu Collection, process could not be different; however, it had unusual circumstances in its development. The collection arose from the encounter between Maria Fernanda and the Mehinako ethnicity, located in the Kaupüna village, in Upper Xingu, south of Amazon Forest, at the end of last year. “Xingu is born from an encounter between past and future, but is established in the present, proposing new ways of looking at tradition, with the respect and admiration that it deserves, while using technology to maintain communication in times of isolation ”, says Maria Fernanda, who, due to new practices since the beginning of pandemic in the world, was unable to return to Kaupüna village to continue the studies and production process.

This unprecedented protocol in the dynamics made Maria Fernanda find new ways of interacting with the village artisans. The weaving techniques classes that she would have in loco were transformed into recorded videos and sent over the internet; with the help of Kulikyrda Mehinako, an artist and one of the community representatives, Maria Fernanda developed a new color chart, extracted from leaves and barks of native trees found in the reserve, with the aim of rescuing the full potential of Xingu, counting on Maibe Maroccolo, in Brasília, to extract these shades and make dye pigments to color the cotton threads used on the mats produced by the Kaupüna village’s women.

“This project has a special taste, as persistence and creativity united Yankatu and the Kaupüna village in its development, despite the obstacles imposed by reality. The yarns dyed by Mattricaria with the raw material harvested by Kulikyrda arrived here and there and, even at a distance, Mehinako women and I were together weaving a new story: they produce a mat with buriti in the village, and I, in São Paulo, learn from them and also weave a mat with small Cabreuva wood cylinders”, comments Maria Fernanda.

To develop the pieces of the collection, Maria Fernanda was inspired by the objects and everyday elements of Mehinako people. The Beiju Table was based on ceramic bowls used to prepare beijus, a traditional food made with cassava. The piece, produced in Cabreuva wood, has details of red beaded necklaces traditionally used in rituals, made by Kayanaku Aweti. The Embira bench was inspired by the construction of their traditional houses called ocas, with its lashings made with tree bark strips. The piece, also in Cabreuva, has a curvature in the legs, making a direct reference to the oca structures.

The Shelter Buffet also follows the traces of ocas, highlighting the sliding doors in Cabreuva wood, that is a reinterpretation of the traditional mats woven with buriti straw. “This braid evokes the strength and resilience of this people and the beauty of their culture”, recalls the artist. The Oca Closet, on the other hand, evokes the beauty of their traditional braid, proposing new and innovative ways of incorporate Mehinako culture tradition in contemporary furniture.

All this exchange and learning is of great value to Maria Fernanda, who always seeks to find a counterpart to help the community involved in her projects. In addition to remunerating artisans fairly and beforehand, the artist will raise funds for the purchase of a motor boat to help the village become autonomous in the extraction of buriti, used both by women in their art, and by men in covering ocas structures.

“This addition must to be done carefully so that identities are not lost or merged. The sum should not subtract anyone. I know it seems strange to talk like this, but if we stop to think, how many times, when adding up, do we see only the total and forget the parts? Here comes Yankatu's mission, to present tradition through a new perspective, highlighting what we have most beautiful and genuine with balance, respect and admiration”, she concludes.