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Anthropologist creates support campaign for the funeral of the Bororo’s master of chants

by Richard Meckien - published Aug 05, 2014 04:05 PM - - last modified Oct 28, 2015 12:40 PM



Shallow grave in the village's center, where the body gets watered daily to have its decomposition process accelerated


Exhumation of the bones for the most important phase of the funeral

The skull is painted with annatto to represent the mythical being who carries the spirit of the dead

José Carlos Kuguri, the last master of chants of the Bororo village Meruri, died on June 20 at the age of about 70 years, as a result of pneumonia. Since then, his body has been wrapped in mats and buried in a shallow grave in the village’s center, which is in the south of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. The grave is daily watered to accelerate the decomposition of the body.

Kuguri is having a Bororo funeral, the most important ritual of this ethnicity and considered one of the world's most elaborate funerals. The most important part will take place in October, when the skull and other bones of Kaguri will be removed from the grave, cleaned, painted with annatto and adorned with feathers, becoming a mythical being (a macaw) to carry his spirit, which can thus be purified before moving to the village of the dead.

"The ritual is connected with the Bororo philosophy, according to which the master of chants plays a central role throughout the process," says anthropologist Massimo Canevacci, visiting professor at the IEA-USP who studies the Bororo culture since 1995, having his fieldwork in the villages Meruri and Garças.

The anthropologist explains that "the master sings in sacred rhythms and melodies" and has the memory of all the chants that should be sung at different times of the ritual. With the chants, he establishes a relationship between the visible and invisible worlds, between the living and the dead: "All the 'dead' return to the Bororo funeral and in that sense no one is totally dead."

"The completion of this ritual is crucial to the Bororo, as it allows them to play their political role in the world through their practice of autonomous self-representation. Accordingly, the Bororo funeral is part and parcel of contemporary human heritage, so important for all other human beings of any part of the world."

In support of the ritual, Canevacci has started a crowdfunding campaign on the internet to raise US$ 2,500.00. According to him, the funds are needed for hosting other masters of chants and for the participation of representatives of several other Bororo villages, which will have the responsibility to appoint a successor to José Carlos Kuguri.

Those who wish to contribute to the crowdfunding must do so by September 15. More information on

Photos: Massimo Canevacci