The Asurini inhabit the Koatinemo Indigenous reserve on the Xingu River in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. They have have an approximate population of 160 people and their language belongs to the Tupi-Guarani family.

In the past they have suffered a drastic population loss after contact with white settlers encroaching their territory for rubber, hunting and minerals, with first contact coming in 1971. In 1982 their population had fallen to just 52, yet despite the imminent danger of their physical extinction an extreme cultural vitality was always there. The complex performance of rituals, the practice of shamanism and an elaborate system of graphic art has given the Asurini do Xingu a strong identity. 



Village Life

The culture of the Asurini allows for non-traditonal marriage structures. An Asurini women may have 2 husbands, an elder and younger father, who will hold different roles of responsibility in caring for her children and herself. She may also share these husbands with other wives, who work together to support one another in daily activities. Although the women may marry young, they will unlikely bear a child until their mid 20s, spending the early part of her marriage perfecting her skills as a wife and adult member of the tribe. 

Women are the keepers of the art which the Asurini are well known for. The tribe highly values painted art and it is also expressed in their high quality ceramics which they create for practical, spiritual and artistic purposes. The designs are highly stylised and representative of the artist who made them. The patterns are geometric and represent the natural environment as well as symbolism for their spiritual beliefs and supernatural beings. These geometrics are seen in work they do on ceramics, gourds, fabric and their bodies. In addition, they are also talented weavers, basket makers and flute makers. 

Agriculture & Subsistance

Besides hunting, fishing and gathering, agriculture is the main subsistence activity of the Asurini and manioc represents the basic element of their diet. In their gardens, they cultivate various species of manioc including manioc cereal. They also garden corn, yams, sweet potato, tobacco, cotton, urucum, peanuts, beans, watermelon and bananas. It is up to the men to prepare the soil (cutting, felling and burning) and to the women for planting and gathering. Collective fishing is done in the summer, in streams and lakes using a traditional technique of poisoning the fish with “Timbo”. When stunned, this fish are shot with arrows of gathered in baskets. 

The Spirit World

Commonly the Asurini live in large 30 (30 meter long, 12 meter width, 7 meter height) wooden strutted housed called Akete or Tavywa. The whole group participate in the house construction under leadership of those who will live in the house. The dead are buried under the ground inside the house, there also, the main ceremonies are held. Shamanistic rituals, known as “Pajelanca” are performed frequently, mobilising the whole group. The shamans enter into contact with spirits that fit into the categories of what can be called “guardian spirits”. These guardians allow the shamans to combat evil spirits and the interpretation of sickness. The shaman is the central figure in the performance of the social life in the group. 


Information Referenced from the Instituto Socioambiental | Povos Indígenas no Brasil

Date accessed 01.04.15
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