My ultimate expectations of the Programme were simple, to keep an open mind and to soak up everything I could in terms of what was said and exchanged, lessons, learnings and stories. I knew that this programme was venturing onto new grounds for me, not so much the travelling but more so being educated about indigenous rights not just in Brazil but also in Aotearoa New Zealand.
I went into this experience knowing that I was decently uneducated on indigenous matters but also deeply aware that it is a space I want to engage with more. For these reasons I did not place any expectations as to what I wanted to learn, because I truly wanted to learn everything I could and more, but instead, I placed my expectations on forging questions and listening.
I am honoured to have had the opportunity to open my eyes to the harsh realities that are presented to the many indigenous cultures, not only in Brazil but across the globe. I am honoured to now be in a space to be able to transfer my learnings on.
I found myself on a few occasions questioning ‘why me’ for such an incredible and literally life-shifting experience. I am not indigenous, but understanding that-that did not mean I couldn’t experience and learn everything that I did, meant that I was able to redirect my focus to learning to listen, not just with my ears and eyes but listening with my heart.
A lot, if not the majority of what was discussed, the stories told, and the kinds of situations that left communities devastated, was very hard to hear and even harder to take on emotionally. It puts into perspective the privilege that we have in Aotearoa and even deeper, the privilege that automatically comes with being pakeha or of white descent.
Being in an environment in which I can learn in an embodied way is incredibly moving and something I’m so grateful for and will continue to be grateful for. I hope in my future I can help share the level of compassion I gained in Brazil to my people and the community around me.
Something I found powerful to witness was the cultural exchange between the indigenous cultures of my group mates and the indigenous cultures in Brazil. Seeing connections form and comparisons made, really helped me to gain more compassion and awareness of the people around me.
Even though this journey has given me the answers I have been looking for to many of the questions I had or had formed, it has left me with many more questions yet to be explored and answered.
Activities that have stood out to me
- Capoeira workshop, the first exposure to hearing generational stories of struggle and our first exposure to one of the many forms of art we’d see. The music, the feelings of groundedness and mindfulness aided in shifting my mind in preparation for everything that was to follow.
- Gaiato, a non-government and non-profit organisation, develops projects that work to uplift and enhance the local culture, it aims to support children adolescents and their families at social risk. The work they do for these people was very inspiring. The entire property radiated a sense of love and support.
- The combined whole of visiting indigenous community after indigenous community and hearing their stories and struggles repeatedly and by different people was really powerful and really put into perspective the scope and reach of all the devastation the previous four years of government has caused, and the continuous affects and effects of the past 500 years and current times of colonial history.
Something I found impactful
Something I found impactful was the music. Hearing the songs sung and the music played across all our community and group visits has been deeply emotional. Their emotions and stories are backed through their song, no matter how unheard they are.
I’ve been present in moments where I watched and felt how the art of song and the creation of music connects us all and brings us all together no matter what. Not only music but all forms of art. Watching as the songs seep into us all and work their magic to connect us to the present moment differently was powerful and unforgettable.
I personally feel now that creativity is this magic that combs its fingers through audiences, working its charms to reach out and touch our souls no matter our differences.
I found it always terribly hard to hold tears back each time I heard someone sing and this really did make my time there meaningful under a different light.
We are all human and no matter our backgrounds we should all look out and after one another.