Irenkre
© 2022 Martin Schoeller


Overview
Kayapo

In 2019, Martin traveled to Brazil to photograph the Kayapo tribe. Published in National Geographic.

“Visiting and documenting the Kayapo was a fascinating and inspiring trip and had a lasting effect on me; to see children be so free and fearless, running around in the jungle completely unsupervised. Even little kids jumping off trees and bridges over ten feet high into shallow murky rivers, with caimans never far away. The Kayapo live one day at a time. They work hard, but if you live in a jungle where the ecosystem is balanced, you don’t have to work many hours a day to feed yourself. Fish are plentiful, so are fruits and nuts and the fertile fields provide lots of vegetables.

Much time is spent sitting around talking, playing soccer, lounging in the river, laying in hammocks and watching videos of their own past ceremonies or even Brazilian soap operas. I spent a month visiting three different villages, and never heard a Kayapo raise their voice in anger. The only loud voice was that of Ropni when he gave a passionate speech to the villagers of Kendjam, reminding the young people to ‘stay close to their culture, not to lose themselves in the "whites' temptations of material goods’. Especially in the village of Kendjam the Kayapo seemed content and happy. They have almost no contact with the outside world, since their village is far away from any border. We only had a satellite phone in case of an emergency (I am afraid of snakes), which was liberating and reminded me of my cell phone and internet-free youth. I catch myself overthinking things and there is always an underlying sense of anxiety, because we have so much stimulus on a daily basis. Having been around the Kayapo and other indigenous groups had a grounding effect on me. It's easier said than done, but I strive to live in the moment which they do so well. To focus on what is in front of me at the moment, to listen and be aware of my surroundings. Going for walks without my phone or not looking at any electronic devices for a day, is important to me.

Sitting around a fire at night in silence with Barbara and my assistant Mike, just listening to the noises of the jungle and watching the stars, reminiscing about the events of the day, was magical.”
– Martin Schoeller