ASKiNGRADiO.com | Lifestyle | Yanomami Tribe | Nov 18
ASKiNG RADiO Senior Reporter KiNG JAMES YiYE continues in the series to look at the Who, Where and Culture of these Amazonas in Southern Venezuela, South America. An Amerindian tribe once described as fierce, war mongering people, wearing little clothing.
These are jungle people who are both gardeners and hunters who gather and kill a rich array of foods from the jungle.
You only have to look into the way the Yanomami people adorn themselves to discover deeper aspects of the tribe’s culture. Yanomami clothing is largely symbolic and decorative. The furthest that Yanomami men go to cover their modesty is to wear little more than string around their waist, to which they tie the stretched out foreskins of their penises. Within Yanomami society it is a clear indication that a boy has come of age when he begins to practice the custom of tying his penis to his waist string. Like their men, the Yanomami women also use cotton yarn to make what you might loosely term as clothing. They make pretty waistbands that look delightful but cover next to nothing, and halter-neck style adornments that cross between the breasts and the middle of the back.
It was not until the eighteenth century that the first westerner European explorer, Alexander Humboldt, encounter the Yanomami. He described them as a dangerous war mongering people and their reputation has changed little since this time.
The Yanomami are just one of the Amerindian tribes that inhabit the thick rainforests of the most southernmost state in Venezuela, Amazonas. And like their fellow Amazonian-Indian tribes, the lives of the Yanomami have been touched very little by the turbulent events that have characterized their country’s history – to the extent that they have come to be regarded by many as living anthropological artifacts. Moreover, the Venezuelan government are not blind to the cultural importance of tribes like the Yanomami, and Yanomami lands have been declared off limits apart from to those who have written permission. Although it’s highly possible that the Yanomami need not live in too much fear of a being over-run by camera clicking tourists, considering their reputation for intense ferocity and machete wielding.
However, in recent years some people have suggested that the Yanomami are perhaps not as deserving of the title ‘the fierce people’, given to them by the American anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon, as they were once thought to be. In reality the Yanomami live quite peacefully on the whole and are more likely to approach outsiders with curiosity than with a huge, bloodstained machete.
Yanomami men and women perform very different and specific roles within their society. Men are the dominant force within and enjoy a much higher status than women, and yet for all this machismo it’s the women that get all the tough jobs and do the hard, physical labor. The women, not the men, leave around 3pm or 4pm everyday to travel miles to collect firewood and fetch water for the village, often returning in the late evening bearing enormous loads of wood in their pack baskets. Then after enduring hours of this backbreaking slog they are still expected to pander to the every need of their husbands. If they do not they risk being scolded, beaten, or something worse. On the positive side, the men do muck in from time to time. At feasts and ceremonial occasions it is the Yanomami men you will see slaving over a hot fire to produce a meal for the guests, while the women take a well-deserved rest.
Keep a date for continuation on the Yanomami Tribe