Games of the South “Where do you direct your gaze?”

Detail of an illustration by Daniela Rodrigues
Detail of an illustration by Daniela Rodrigues | © Daniela Rodrigues

The Olympic Games have just begun in Brazil with a spectacular opening ceremony. But beyond big stadiums and investors, what does the subject look like? The Games of the South series by the Goethe-Institut searches for the nature of the game behind this façade – for example at the World Indigenous Games.

In theory, the Olympic and Paralympic Games promote understanding between peoples and nations. In practice, however, all too often the focus is on performance and rivalries. Until 7 October 2016, the Games of the South project offers a platform to reflect on the social and cultural dimensions of major sporting events with an exhibition, a pupils’ camp, an app workshop and an international conference. In addition, twelve experts on topics such as sustainability and civil rights express their views on the project website in the context of the Olympic Games.

On a journey of observation

The exhibition, which can be seen until 8 October in Rio de Janeiro, presents the results of the journeys of thirteen Brazilian, Asian and German academics and artists, including Paulo Nazareth, Antje Mejawski and Igor Vidor, to the World Indigenous Games. More than two thousand athletes from over 30 countries participated in the first games of indigenous peoples in Palmas. The athletes met for traditional disciplines – for example, tug of war or canoeing – and the 13 guests became acquainted with the sporting tradition of Latin America.

At the invitation of the Goethe-Institut, the group travelled to Palmas to deal in an artistic way with the value of sport in the culture of indigenous peoples. What is the real nature of games? How can games shape the relationship between the individual and society? And what influence does it have on the sociality of a community? These questions led to performances, essays and photos.

Picture journal

Anthropologist Daniela Rodrigues is one of the artists who reflected on the World Indigenous Games during her visit to Palmas. In her illustrations and sketches, she captured her personal viewpoint of the events and their commercialization.

Illustration von Daniela Rodrigues © Daniela Rodrigues The slogan of the Olympics exclaims in capital letters “NOW WE ARE ALL INDIGENOUS.” What is that supposed to mean, anyway? I lingered in this place in which every visitor seemed to be transforming into an imaginary Indian in a synthesis, a synthesis of accessories for long hair, many-feathered headdresses, bracelets of coloured beads and black and red body paint. I sat down to watch Kayapo girls draw angular geometric patterns on other people’s arms with jenipapo and dark charcoal. The prices ranged from 10 to 20 reals.

Illustration by Daniela Rodrigues © Daniela Rodrigues But where do you direct your gaze in this arena full of invisible layers, filled with the silence of many, in this inhospitable space without the shade trees that had filtered Tocantin’s overly hot sun? First sketches of the place: the Sacred Fire, a constant flame on the competition grounds.

Illustration by Daniela Rodrigues © Daniela Rodrigues The dynamics in the digital hut where indigenous people of many ages update their Facebook walls with selfies taken at the Games. Screens full of feathers, face paint, bows and arrows, and lots and lots of Likes.

Illustration by Daniela Rodrigues © Daniela Rodrigues I already was familiar with the Karajá dolls. I’d seen them in exhibitions on the intangible heritage of Brazil, seen them for sale in the TUCUM shops that sell indigenous art in Santa Teresa, the neighbourhood where I live in Rio de Janeiro.

I asked Lukukui Karajá from the village of Santa Isabel do Morro on the Ilha do Bananal whether it is true that they are used to tell children the stories, myths and rituals of the people. Why do these women dolls have no arms? And what is this beast devouring the others? And he said, “We did that in the past. But now we are living in modern times, right? Now we do it all for you.” So, I took home an Aritxocô doll, Lukukui. And a jaguar eating a capybara.