Tupi or not Tupi or Only Cannibalism Unites Us Brazilians

Tupinambá women Indians prepare man to be cooked and eaten “Every Brazilian, even the light skinned fair haired one carries about him on his soul, when not on soul and body alike, the shadow or at least the birthmark of the aborigine or the Negro, in our affections, our excessive mimicry, our Catholicism which so delights the senses, our music, our gait, our speech, our cradle songs, in everything that is a that is a sincere expression of our lives, we almost all of us bear the mark of that influence.” Gilberto Freyre (The Masters and the Slaves)

In 1555 Hans Staden returned from captivity to his native Germany to write a book describing his time as a prisoner of the Tupinambá tribe. This particular book became quite well known later for its description of the Tupinambá tribe’s ritual of consuming the flesh of its enemy in order to integrate the life force of the other.

This began a discourse in Brazil’s academia of what is known as anthropophagy or cannibalism. However, it was brought to a symbolic level on the back of what is now known to be “cultural cannibalism” from the pen of Oswald de Andrade. Andrade in 1922, living in São Paulo, wrote a manifesto, which he called Manifesto Antropófago or the Cannibalistic manifesto.

The opening lines of the manifesto read, “Only Cannibalism unites us: Socially, Economically, Philosophically”; of course this is the answer to the last lines of Marx’s Communist Manifesto, “Workers of all countries, unite!”

In the most famous line of the poem Andrade writes another thing akin to the Marxian pronouncement that the proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains; Andrade writes, “Tupi or not Tupi, that is the question.”

In other words to act as the Tupi Tribe is to consume, digest the colonizers of Europe in order to keep what is powerful in their ideas but also to retain the Brazilian identity. The singer and songwriter Caetano Veloso writes that, “Anthropophagy is a Brazilian state of being”.

“Brazil’s culture is without doubt the country’s pride and glory, its greatest achievement, and its main calling card around the world,” writes Larry Rohter in his book titled Brazil on the Rise: The Story of a Country Transformed.

The pronouncement that Brazil is “The country of the future, and it always will be” seems to be one of the things that will be masticated and added as fuel in order for further development as the Brazilian “chip” seems to be dusted off the shoulder.

Andrade mentions the catechism and the priest (law) “Against all catechisms,” “We are tired of all those suspicious Catholic husbands in play,” which shows what Gilles Deleuze wrote about when he states that territory is the mediator between the forces of chaos and entropy.

In this sense Andrade is proclaiming that religion is a territorializing force which perhaps takes away from the cannibalistic chaos of his manifesto. Andrade in Deleuzian terms would claim to be reterritorializing Brazil in order to create a new order which consumes and digests the powerful ideas of Europe but defecates the oppressive nature of the regime.

In the longest stanza which I will quote in length, Andrade writes:

“The struggle between what we might call the Uncreated and the Created – illustrated by the permanent contradiction of man and his taboo. Daily love and the capitalist modus vivendi. Cannibalism. Absorption of the sacred enemy. To transform him into a totem. The human adventure. Earthly finality.

“However, only the pure elite manage to realize carnal cannibalism within, some sense of life, avoiding all the evils Freud identified, those religious evils. What yields nothing is a sublimation of the sexual instinct.

“It is a thermometric scale of cannibalistic instinct. Once carnal, it turns elective and creates friendship. Affectivity, or love. Speculative, science. It deviates and transfers. We arrive at utter vilification. In base cannibalism, our baptized sins agglomerate – envy, usury, calumny, or murder.

“A plague from the so-called cultured and Christianized, it’s what we are acting against. Cannibalsvilification. In base cannibalism, our baptized sins agglomerate – envy, usury, calumny, or murder. A plague from the so-called cultured and Christianized, it’s what we are acting against. Cannibals.”

Cannibalism itself has a sorted past in which at times it is understandable (Uruguay Air Force flight 571 which ate the dead in order to survive), or in other times a sign of a severe mental disorder (Albert Fish who raped, murdered, and ate many victims including children).

Andrade knows well that cannibalism is a societal norm which has roots in totemism. Totemism is the idea that people have some kinship with a past entity such as a spirit which can take the form of an animal or other object.

He even speaks of a carnal cannibalism which is the erotic idea of consuming the object of infatuation which is written about often in literature such as The Taste of Man by Slavenka Drakulic in which the consummation of the lover through digestion allows the cannibal to keep the lover within,

“I shall eat his body so José will continue to live within me, we shall be one, in spirit and body, amen”.

In some of the last lines Andrade states that Maria da Fonte, the patriarchal woman who embodies the Portuguese tradition, which was against the spirit of Brazil (which was personified in Jaci and Guaraci the goddesses of the moon and sun) shall be eaten as well, “expel the dynasty”! We shall eat or be eaten! Lose our chains or be chained!

Scott Maxwell is a freelance writer interested in Brazil, Social Theory, Creative History, Philosophy. A contributor for www.undergroundwriter.com


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