Trees, Vines, Palms and
Other Architectural Monuments
2013 – ongoing
A project by Paulo Tavares in collaboration with Bö’u Xavante Association. Realized by autonoma.
Research Team: Dario Tserewhorã, Domingos Tsereõmorãté Hö’awari, Magno Silvestre, Marcelo Abaré, Paulo Tavares and Policarpo Waire Tserenhorã. Translation and Consultancy: Caimi Waiassé and Cosme Rité
From the early 1950s to the late 1960s, the A’uwe - Xavante people, an indigenous nation of central Brazil, was subjected to a brutal campaign of land dispossession and forced removals to open space for cattle farms and soy plantations. Officially known as “pacification,” this campaign was part of an overall strategy of territorial colonization that the Brazilian military described as “occupying demographic voids.”
In collaboration with the Bö’u Xavante Association of Marãiwatsédé, we mapped the ancient villages from which they have been forcibly displaced. All the sites identified display a remarkable similar feature in that a patch of vegetation grew over the arc-shaped footprint of the ancient village. Made of a combination between medium and large trees, palms and other types of plants and vines, these botanic formations contain species that are associated with Xavante traditional occupation and land managing systems.
In many different ways, these botanic formations are the product of the village design, being the equivalent to an architectural ruin, albeit not dead but living. Can we claim trees, vines and palms to be historic monuments? Is the forest an “urban heritage” of non-western forms of design?
The collective memory of the Xavante people remains alive in the living fabric of the forest. But most of this archaeological heritage is situated within private fenced lands to which they do not have access. As such, they are in danger of being destroyed by the advancement of the agribusiness frontier.
Here we present a draft petition to be submitted to IPHAN (Brazilian National Institute of Artistic and Historic Heritage) and UNESCO calling for those patches of trees that bear witness to the ancient Xavante settlements to be considered and protected as architectural heritage. This petition contains a set of protocols, visual files, mappings, and field notes that identify these botanic formations as archaeological sites, probing the relations between natural and cultural landscapes as they are defined by categorizations that shape colonial-modern collections, archives and museums –– of natural and architectural history alike.