Gustavo Caboco was ten years old when he accompanied his mother, Lucilene Wapichana, on his first trip around the state of Roraima – specifically to the village of Canauanim, near the city of Boa Vista. Returning to Lucilene’s land, having been abducted by a missionary in 1968, also at the age of ten, then migrating between various houses until settling in Curitiba, was, for him, where everything began. That is where he met his grandmother and other indigenous relatives and can finally see up close the scenes he has imagined for so long from the stories his mother told him. Those memories, although always present, were now coming to life. “I stepped on an anthill, wounded my foot with an arrow, was sprayed with hot pepper, and we prepared damurida. It is the beginning of my return journey,” he writes in the introduction to his book, Baaraz Kawau (2019), which he also illustrated.
It was 2001. Brazil had just celebrated its quincentenary, the event which is still mistakenly called the “anniversary of discovery.” Criticizing the celebration, which outright ignored the genocide of indigenous peoples, was not something Gustavo was thinking about at the time. Nevertheless, it is curious that it coincided with an opposing movement initiated by him and his mother: not to discover his origins, but to simply find it, by threading together an interrupted history.
Gustavo Caboco Wapichana presents himself as an indigenous artist from Curitiba, Roraima, linking the city where he was born and raised to the state Lucilene is originally from, which are geographically distant. Caboco asserts this gives new meaning to the pejoratively used term to make reference to the miscegenation of indigenous and white people. Wapichana is the name of the ethnic group they belong to. The connection between Curitiba and Roraima also became central to his research and artistic practice, which proposes a “return to the earth” in a broad sense – sometimes poetic, sometimes literal. “Sometimes people say that they think the metaphors I work on are beautiful, but I insist that they are not metaphors; they are things that happened. The setting is 2001, because that is when I returned to the land, literally,” he says.