, , , , , ,

Márcia Wayna Kambeba – Indigenous Poet – Belém – Pará – Brazil
Photo Credit: Brazilian Women’s Magazine Seja Extraordinária


My Poetry Corner November 2019 features the poem “Silent Warrior” (Silêncio Guerreiro) by Márcia Wayna Kambeba, the artistic name of Márcia Vieira da Silva, an indigenous Brazilian poet, geographer, performer, and activist for indigenous rights. Born in 1979 in the village of Belém do Solimões in the northern Brazilian state of Pará, she is of Omágua Kambeba ethnicity. At eight years, she moved with her family to São Paulo de Olivença—once the largest settlement of the Kambeba people—in Amazonas. Today, she lives in the city of Belém, capital of Pará.

In the opening stanza of the title poem—written in Tupi followed by its translation in Portuguese—of her poetry collection, Ay Kakyri Tama – Eu Moro na Cidade (Ay Kakyri Tama – I Live in the City), she writes:

I live in the city
This city is also our village
We do not erase our ancestral culture
Come white man, let us dance our ritual.

Influenced by her grandmother, a teacher and poet, Márcia Wayna began writing her first poems at twelve years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in geography at the Amazonas State University in Manaus. In 2012, she received her master’s degree at the Amazonas Federal University. For her dissertation, she documented the history of the Omágua Kambeba people from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century, examining the relationship between territory, identity, and ethnicity. Her poetry collection, self-published in 2018, is the transformation of her dissertation to inform others about the invisible life of indigenous peoples.

Márcia Wayna Kambeba during lecture about The Indigenous Woman & Literature
Minas Gerais – Brazil – October 29, 2016
Photo Credit: Márcia Wayna Kambeba YouTube Channel


In her poem, “Indian, I am not,” Márcia Wayna tells us that indigenous peoples don’t like to be called “Indian.” The name is a silent bullet that causes much pain.

Don’t call me “Indian” because
This name never belonged to me
Neither as a nickname do I wish to bear
An error that Columbus made.

The indigenous poet reaffirms her identity as Omágua Kambeba in “To be Indigenous – To be Omágua.”

I am daughter of the forest, my speech is Tupi,
I bear within my chest,
The pain and joy of the Kambeba people
and in my soul, the force to reaffirm
our identity
for some time forgotten,
diluted in history.
But today, I revive and release
the ancestral flame of our memory.

She uses the Tupi language, followed by its translation to Portuguese, to set the tone for the opening stanza of “Ancestral Territory.”

What to do with man in life,
That hurts, that kills,
That does whatever he wants.

From the first meeting, she recounts, between the “Indian” and the “white man,” their fights and great battles to defend their land cannot be forgotten.

The firearm overcame my arrow,
My nudity became scandalous,
My language was kept in anonymity,
They changed my life, destroyed my land.

The Kambeba poet tells us in her poem, “Human Intervention,” that man is the most dangerous of all animals and remains the greatest threat to their lives. Man is intelligent; dominates science, speech, and writing; and constructs buildings in which to live. 

But he destroys nature without compassion
And in this human intervention
Contributes to a total disaster,
Destroying his life, this rational man.

For the Kambeba and other indigenous peoples living in the Amazon region, the continual destruction of the rainforest threatens their survival. In the featured five-stanza poem, “Silent Warrior,” the poet draws on her people’s ancient wisdom of silence. In the early struggles to defend their land, silence became a weapon to fight against the enemy. In the third stanza, she notes:

To be silent is necessary,
To listen with the heart,
The voice of nature,
The sobbing of our earth.

Water mother, the poet says in the fourth stanza, asks only that we respect her / the source of our sustenance. 

In the final stanza, the poet emphasizes the need of indigenous peoples to find a solution to the existential crisis.

It is necessary to be silent,
To think about the solution,
To restrain the white man,
Defending our home,
Source of life and beauty,
For us, for the nation!

To read the complete featured poem in English and its original Portuguese, and to learn more about the work of Márcia Wayna Kambeba, go to my Poetry Corner November 2019.

All excerpts of poems by Márcia Wayna Kambeba come from her poetry collection, Ay Kakyri Tama – Eu Moro Na Cidade, published by Pólen Livros, São Paulo, Brazil, 2018. Translation by Rosaliene Bacchus