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Tukanoan caapi bench

Tukanoan caapi bench
ca. 1920
Rio Uaupés, Amazonas State, Brazil
Wood, paint
55 x 24 x 20 cm
Collected by Dr. Herbert S. Dickey

The Tukano make several types of ceremonial benches. The bench called caapi appeared when our ancestor emerged in human form. He was a uhtãboho mahs˜u (quartz stone being). His younger brother was a tarouhtã mahs˜u (river stone being). The bench formed the pelvis of these Transforming Beings and, for this reason, was present during the transformation of humanity. Thus, these benches are considered to be seats of knowledge and of the life force of humans.

As the Transforming Beings journeyed through the houses of transformation, they sat on benches to converse, confer blessings, dance, sing, and drink ceremonial caapi, made from the Banisteriopsis vine. The designs on the bench represent different paths taken by the transformation canoe, up to the pelvis of the body of the God of Transformation of humanity. The feet of the bench are painted with designs of the bayá, leaders of ceremonial dance and chanting. Bayá designs are revealed during caapi ceremonies. The Transforming Beings had two sisters who, like their brothers, had their own life benches throughout the journey through the houses of transformation. The women had their own powers through the life bench, obtained through creation and transformation, as they accompanied the men.

The Tukano still view these benches as our ancestors viewed them, and our fathers continue to make benches for us to use in our homes, on ceremonial occasions, and in our houses of knowledge (traditional longhouses).

—UremirÄ© Aprigio Azevedo (Tukano) and Vilmar Azevedo (Tukano), knowledge keepers and bench makers

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