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Re-Imagining the Guyanas

 | 
Lawrence Aje
, 
Thomas Lacroix
, 
Judith Misrahi-Barak

Writing and Imagining the 3 Guyanas

The Journey to the Source of Imagination: A Reading of ‘The Laughter of the Wapishanas’ by Wilson Harris

Gabriel Cambraia Neiva

Texte intégral

  • 1 Harris, Wilson. The Age of the Rainmakers. London: Faber & Faber, 1971.
  • 2 Farage, Nádia. ‘As Flores Da Fala: Práticas Retóricas Entre Os Wapishana’. PhD thesis, Universidad (...)
  • 3 , Lúcia. Rain Forest Literatures. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2004. , (...)

1This essay proposes a reading of ‘The Laughter of the Wapishanas’ by Wilson Harris (1971), based on ethnographic sources of the Guiana region.1 It will be argued here that Amerindian philosophy and discursive genres play an important role in Harris’s fable, not only thematically but also in its compositional features, especially concerning Wapishana rhetorical practices (Farage 1997).2 The present work follows the hypothesis that Guianese Amerindian traditions are fundamental to the formation of the literature produced in the context of the modern national states that comprise the Guiana area, as has been argued by Sá (2004, 2009).3 The objective of this essay is exactly to unfold the correlations between these two discursive spheres.

2This short-story is part of The Age of the Rainmakers (1971), a volume which, along with The Sleepers of the Roraima (1970), comprises a collection of Amerindian fables—a genre that appears as a brief experiment amidst the author’s vast oeuvre. The Age of the Rainmakers is composed of four texts, each one linked to a specific group of Amerindian peoples of the circum-Roraima region: Makushi, Arekuna, Wapishana and Arawak. As intended by the author, Amerindian ontologies are a central aspect in these collections of fables. Therefore, reading them through an ethnographic lens may expand the critical horizon on the textual production of Wilson Harris.

  • 4 Maes-Jelinek, H. ‘Reviews: Natural and Psychological Landscapes Wilson Harris, The Sleepers of Ror (...)
  • 5 On the relation of Wilson Harris textuality and surrealism, see Burns, Lorna. ‘Uncovering the Marv (...)

3‘The Laughter of the Wapishanas’ is the third fable of The Age of the Rainmakers (1971) and ‘the most poetic of the fables’, according to Maes-Jelinek (1972: 120).4 Written in the third person, the plot enacts the dream-journeys of a young girl called Wapishana—her name being, in fact, an ethnonym—through branches of trees: the tree of Bird, the tree of Fish, of Animal and, finally, of God, in a quest for the source of laughter. The text resonates with strong surrealist aspects, but as the present essay intends to point out, this surrealist tone springs from Harris’ elaboration on Amerindian narratives.5

4Each narrative of the book is introduced by a note usually referencing specific Amerindian narratives within the fictional construction. In contrast, the introductory note of ‘The Laugher of the Wapishanas’ points to the author’s personal experience as a topographer in the interior of Guyana. Working for the colonial government between the end of the 1940s and beginning of the 1950s, Harris was in charge of mapping the hydrographic basins of British Guyana. From this experience, he recalls:

  • 6 The spelling of the ethnonym follows the contemporary form used in ethnology. However, when quotin (...)

In 1948—when surveying in the upper Potaro Kaieteuran area of Guiana—I came upon a group of Wapishanas who are reputed to be a ‘laughter-loving’ people unlike the fatalistically inclined Macusis and Arekunas (61).6

  • 7 Swan, Michael. The Marches of Eldorado. 1958. Aylesbury, Slouth: Penguin Books, 1961, mentioned in (...)

5The same kind of description is found in The Marches of El Dorado, by Swan ([1958] 1963), a book explicitly mentioned in The Age of the Rainmakers.7 On the alleged difference between the Makushi and the Wapishana peoples, Swan writes:

The Makushi is solemn, introverted, completely fatalistic, and easily confused into decadence by the influence of civilization; the Wapishanas, though I found them often solemn enough, are gay among themselves and laughter-loving. (Swan 1961: 162).

6Another distinctive mark of Harris’ introductory note is his criticism of the dangerous influence of Western civilization on Amerindian people (1971: 61-2). While his criticism is a political statement towards the defense of Amerindian rights to land, it is nevertheless an aesthetic project, calling for creative transculturation, vital to prevent the failure of human kind in the near future: ‘Events within the past decade bear out the necessity for an imaginative relativizing agency within neighbouring, though separate, peoples, whose promise lies in gateway conceptions of community’ (Harris 1971: 61). Now more urgent than ever, the need for dialogue between different cultures, between nation states and Amerindian peoples was already promoted by Wilson Harris in the 70s:

The predicament of the Indian continues to deepen with new uncertainties as to the authority which governs him. Such authority has been at stake for centuries within the decimation of the tribes. And a political scale is lacking: the land under his feet is disputed by economic interests and national interests. (Harris 1971: 61)

7The current situation of the Amerindian peoples in Guyana, and in South America at large, could not be better summarised. Harris explores the ‘theme of the decoy’ as a way of thinking power relations without restricting himself to a political agenda. Knowing the crucial importance of land to the lives of the Amerindian people, the author widens the scope to the whole of the South American continent. Harris suggests that indigenous people need to rediscover themselves creatively to confront imperialism and avoid pitfalls. Amerindian knowledge has the necessary sensibility for such recreation:

It is within this background that the theme of the decoy seems to me pertinent to the whole continent of South America. For not only does it reflect the ruses of imperialism which make a game of men’s lives but occupies a curious ground of primitive oracle as well, whose horizons of sensibility we may need at this time to unravel within ourselves as an original creation. (Harris 1971: 61-2)

8The definition of horizons of sensibility is also a key-concept in the last fable of The Age of the Rainmakers (Harris 1971), titled ‘Arawak Horizon’, which seems to be the overall aesthetic proposal for the series of ‘Amerindian fables’. The meta-narrative unravels poetically the quest for the unconscious and collective core of human kind through creative imagination. This is a theme also explored in ‘The Laughter of the Wapishanas’, as will be shown.

  • 8 Overing, Joanna, and Alan Passes, eds. The Anthropology of Love and Anger: The Aesthetics of Convi (...)
  • 9 Santilli, Paulo. ‘O Riso Castiga os Costumes’, in Roraima: Homem, Ambiente e Ecologia, Reinaldo I. (...)

9Subsequent to the author’s introductory note of his experiences and field notes, the fable’s plot emerges: Wapishana’s ‘search of the colour and nature of the laughter—the source of laughter—which she was determined to restore to the lips of her people’ (Harris 1971: 63). The choice of laughter is not fortuitous: ‘The role of laughter is vital to the everyday life of an Amazonian community’.8 Overing discusses the importance of laughter among the Piaroa, another circum-Roraima people, adding that ‘Laughter and the ludic obviously play a large part in the everyday life of these peoples, so much so, that it becomes an important clue to the very distinctiveness of their sociality’ (2000: 64). Similarly, Santilli (2010) addresses the importance of humour among the Makushi as a political practice.9

10The fable on laughter opens with ‘The Sermon of the Leaf’ which evokes the fundamental tensions of the story or dualities that drift from diverse semantic domains. On the one hand, the sermon is a genre that evokes a biblical reference, specifically the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ in which Jesus of Nazareth, among many allegories, defends the humble and the oppressed, promising them the Reign of Heavens with the famous remark ‘Rejoice and be glad’. In analogy, Wapishana also searches for happiness and life. The leaf, metonymically, speaks both about the place where Wapishana people live—savannahs and forests—and the magical quality of plants the Wapishana used, which they believe to have a life of chant (Farage 1997: 82). After years of drought, ‘The Sermon of the Leaf’ gives birth to the source of laughter to wet Wapishana’s lips: ‘Somewhere on the staircase of the earth-race laughter was born in the sermon of the leaf’ (Harris 1971: 63).

11In consonance with the magical life of plants, the first image of the girl’s journey—the staircase—refers to Wapishana shamanism. Farage (1997) describes the initial chant of a Wapishana shaman, called upurz karawaru, meaning a stair or bridge of weightlessness. The shaman climbs up these stairs while, at the same time, his body is anchored to them, assuring his return. The translation of the first term, purzai, is ‘chain, stairs, bridge, everything that gives passage, overcoming obstacles’ (Farage 1997: 260). By chanting, the shaman reaches places inaccessible to common people and from where only chant can bring him back.

12Dream and chant initiate the journey of the young woman, who ‘dreamt one day that she now cradled the dry mourning leaf of the elder tree of laughter’ (Harris 1971: 63). In a quest for life and happiness, she travels through a dream world made of opposite thematic poles, dualities that form a constant tension. The importance of dreams is highlighted in Farage’s ethnography (1997). For the Wapishana, dreams are strongly related to shamanic journeys and the invisible reality of the vital principle—panaokaru—usually translated as the ‘grandfathers’, ‘elders’ or ‘masters’ of each species. Farage explains:

[. . .] the panaokaru reality is one of dreams, of feverish delirium, of shamanic journeys. Useless to highlight that this is not a lower degree of reality than the human one but rather another order of reality. The Wapishana affirm explicitly: ‘dreaming, we see people but it is an animal.’ And explain moreover: ‘panaokaru no one sees, only in dreams. It is the same thing when you are in São Paulo and I dream about you, because awake I cannot see you anymore.’ The shaman—marinao—is the one who is able to travel to this dimension: ‘for the marinao, panaokaru is people, has flesh, hat, products, speech.’ (Farage 1997: 67)

13The impact of the reality of dreaming and other cosmological notions on the aesthetics of Harris’ textual production is immense. It allows and justifies the distance to the Western and Cartesian notion of the Self and reality, placing Amerindian ontologies at the core of the narrative’s aesthetics.

14At the ‘staircase of drought’ Wapishana searches for ‘the colour and nature of laughter—the source of laughter—which she was determined to restore to the lips of her people’ (Harris 1971: 63). The quest is to save her people, through a recreation of themselves. As we will see further down, this can only be achieved in finding the right dosage that defines the human condition. The quest leads Wapishana through a path of extremities: drought and rain, suffering and contentment, etc. To understand this journey and support the present hypothesis, a brief presentation of the Wapishana orature and cosmology is necessary.

15For the Wapishana, according to Farage (1997: 59) all nameable things have a principle—panaokaru—which often translates as ‘grandparent’ or ‘elder’. Humans, as well as magical plants, contain also a portion of another vital principle, called udorona, expressed by the breath, the word, and exponentially, by the chant that belongs only to the plants. The difference between these two principles is one of weight: udorona is pure weightlessness, chant, scent, breath; panaokaru is corporeality—humidity, blood, body and materiality.

16Non-colloquial discursive genres of the Wapishana, explains Farage (1997), conform to a gradient between these poles—soul and body, lightness and weight, blood and word. This discursive distribution is divided into three categories: marinaokanu, the shamanic chants; pori, the incantations; and kotuanao dau'ao, the narratives, according to the quota of udorona each contain.

17The narrative genre, or talk ‘about the old times’, is marked by a detached third-person narrative voice, never a personal experience of the narrator. The incantations—pori, medicine—are formulae, repeated several times for a specific purpose—love, cure or improvement of skills, for example—usually presented as short utterances. The protagonist ‘self’ is personified in speech, which, for the Wapishana, is not representational—mimetic—but a performative act: ‘To utter a name is to make it present’ (Farage 1997: 244). It recovers, however, a past world before speciation, where ‘everything spoke, everything was pori’ (Farage 1997: 246). Shamanic chants, in their turn, are dialogic and contextual, bringing to the scene multiple personae—magical plants, deceased shamans—which acquire voice to dialogue with the audience and with the patient. Like pori, shamanic chants present the voice in exegesis or direct alteration of reality, where ‘singing is acting’ (Farage 1997: 271)—the chant is usually a battle with the entities—panaokaru—which stole the soul of the patient.

18Contrasting the presented Wapishana genres with ‘The Laughter of the Wapishanas’—one example of Harris’ own genre, the ‘Amerindian fables’—it seems some aspects of each textual category are mixed in the poetical prose of the latter. For instance, an impersonal third person narrator, as in the kotuanao dau’ao narratives, targeting an ‘old time’. The shamanic chants could be seen in the way the non-human acquires a persona status, altering reality. This capacity of transformation is also a characteristic of pori, the incantations. Their time is the distant past, before speciation, a time the girl Wapishana travels to. Important is also the anti-representational aspect, already noted by Maes-Jelinek as being a recurrent characteristic of the short narratives of The Age of the Rainmakers. Maes-Jelinek states that ’Here the metaphor is not a mere figure of speech, since it coalesces matter and spirit, moved and modified by identical forces, into one reality’ (119). In ‘The Laughter of the Wapishanas’, abundant expressions of analogy, e.g. ‘as if’, are not elements of comparison but happenings per se. Far from figures of speech, they perform action—to the surprise of the reader—as is indicated in the ethnography, the oratory of the Wapishana people and reiterated in the reading of Maes-Jelinek.

19Usually, even a privileged reader does not expect this diverse system of knowledge in which figures of speech are acts and nature is alive in a path to other chronotope. In ‘The Laughter of the Wapishanas’, the protagonist undertakes journeys into the ‘elder tree of laughter’ through its ‘elder branches’, trails to the cosmogenic timelessness or, to quote Harris, ‘the beginning of age when the people of Wapishana came along the elder branches of fate—along the branches of hunted bird and fish, animal and god’ (1971: 64).

  • 10 See Koch-Grünberg, Theodor. Vom Roroima zum Orinoco: Mythen und Legenden der Taulipang- und Arekun (...)

20The fictional discourse seems to draw a close parallel with two narratives, largely disseminated in the Guianese area, known in the ethnographical literature as ‘The Tree of Life’ and ‘The Visit to the Sky’.10 Briefly, these narratives deal with the dilemma of unity versus diversity and with the dangers of difference. The narrative ‘The Tree of Life’ tells about the trickster brothers who naively cut a huge tree where all fruits grow. Before that, there was no need to plant, the tree would provide everything. With the fall of the tree, all fruits are spread everywhere and the stump of the tree is now the magnificent Mount Roraima. The insensate act of cutting the tree differentiates species, marking the beginning of the world as we know it (Farage 1997). In its turn, ‘The Visit to the Sky’ tells of the marriage between a male human and a female vulture. They live together until she wants to visit her father, the king vulture, in the sky and so, covered in feathers, they fly up invisible stairs. There, the king vulture demands impossible tasks from his son in law in order to have an excuse to kill and eat him, but the man fulfills all of them with the help of small birds and other animals. Finally, the man is able to escape and fly back, again covered in feathers.

21‘The Laughter of the Wapishanas’ draws close parallels with those Amerindian narratives, most of all with the chronotopical image of the tree, which belongs to an original time when all life was undifferentiated. The fictional appropriation thus establishes the regressive temporality of the journey in a search for origins. In its Wapishana version, the image of the tree, besides constituting a sign of origin and unity of life, unfolds as an imprint of immortality: according to the ethnography, Wapishana shamans are the only ones who are not undifferentiated after death, living in a huge luminous tree, inaccessible to the others (Farage 1997: 89). Under this light, the image of the tree in Harris text, as containing past, future and destiny is better understood.

22‘The Tree of Life’, Farage recalls (1997: 208), is the narrative that represents speciation, the disruption of the initial unity of the world. In that sense, the journey of Wapishana is a search for this unity, through each of the branches which form the tree of divinity—far from the Christian deity. The subtitle ‘Sermon of the Leaf’ clarifies distances and proximities between the discourses: if the sermon is a genre of ecclesiastic nature, the leaf is the multiplicity of the forest—its symbol, but most importantly, a shamanic tool. The leaf thus alters the nature of the sermon, using its expressive power and authority to tell about a different cosmology.

23The sorrow and happiness of Wapishana herself push her to initiate the journey ‘into the root of her senses [. . .] the sharpest blow of sorrow in the strings of laughter’ (Harris 1971: 64). The landscapes of Guyana are alive in Harris’ text, as music or sculpture, retaining multiple historicities, an ancestry also found in bones which are axes for the connections between different worlds. They establish communication between diverse temporal instances—past, present and future:

It was as if the withered sliced lips of her people had become the sculpture of a song – an ancient feast of the bone which sometimes turned the tables of the tree on hunter by hunted in order to memorialize a silent debt of creation—creature to creature (Harris 1971: 64).

24The journey starts at the ‘Elder Tree of Bird’: ‘the first leg of her journey back to the source of laughter which stretched faraway into the dazzling reaches of the sky’ (Harris 1971: 64)—indicating a movement analogous to the one enacted in the narrative ‘The Visit to the Sky’. There, Wapishana ‘felt herself betrothed in a curious way to the spirit of the wood: puberty of the tree’ (1971: 64). In search of humanity, Wapishana the girl, in her long dream embodies immemorial places and opposites poles—earth and heaven—in her own corporality. Such encounter is also sexual, resonating strongly with ‘The Visit to the Sky’. Indeed, as in this last narrative, Harris’ fable takes up the ambiguous connection between sexual intercourse and hunt which entangles human and feathered species:

As if the hunt of feathered species began with a joint or pact—elder bridegroom and derisory maiden—he (the elder tree) decked out with the yellow knob or beaked flame of the powis of the sun to woo her pointed sceptical leaf as a foretaste of humour—humour of bird-in-man, man-in-bird, reciprocal tongue of the psyche, marriage feast or memorial tree. (Harris 1971: 65)

  • 11 Overing, Joanna. ‘The Stench of Death and the Aromas of Life: The Poetics of Ways of Knowing and S (...)

25There is a tension of flirting, opposites like the risible and the grave, a mockery between female and male principles, ‘whose pliant quarrel drew her to taste afresh an inexplicable humour of self-mockery in self-creation—vinegar of love’ (65). Being part of the living space, Wapishana is now leaf and blood: the young lady is ‘part and parcel of the torn fabric of space (…) inner and outer crenelations of psyche—horizons of re-entry into the movement of creation’ (66). The trails to the source to the creation of humanity, are seen from inside of herself, agony and pleasure. Being and space are therefore contiguous, inhabited by a principle of life, ancestry. A path or play is found in oppositions, for instance, fire and water, drought and rain—each of them in its ‘elder tree’, disguised in space. Each end is complementary ‘like a comedy of passion’ (66), exposing plies in space where laughter resonates: ‘The nature of this complement (as though nature wooed nature, night day) between fire and water became the ripple of laughter within the fold of elements’ (66-67). Returning to the anthropological literature of the area, Overing (2006) highlights the productive exchange of opposites in Guianese Amerindian thought: ‘It is precisely the interplay of such polarities—their ongoing syntheses—that has generative and degenerative force. Poison is deadly, and it endows life. The ambiguity of synthesis is always there (. . .)’.11

26Thus, Harris’ textuality is a poetical enactment of these ‘ongoing syntheses’ and its ambiguities. The ‘uncanny decoy’ the narration proposes, is a principle that Wapishana recasts in her journey: ‘A counter-revelation of parts that abolished the naked unselfconscious unity of the tribe. That dying unity—almost unrecognizable now as a communal mirror—served as a riddle of parts—numb comedy of man—divided source of laughter’ (Harris 1971: 67).

27The ‘numb comedy of man’ comprises sexualities, ethnic identities and historicities that Wapishana goes through: an imaginary trajectory to open mnemonic horizons and redraw her own and her people’s history. The image of a ‘scissors of light’—her legs—cuts memories and deities, remaking temporalities and saving the very character, a ‘redress of death and life’ in a new clothing for history, now covered by another textile: the ‘gift of life’ (68).

28The ‘elder tree of fish’ is the ‘second leg of her journey to the source of laughter’ (68). Sailing on a clear lake, a cloud of silver fishes falls from heaven into her hands. The duplicate image of sky on water—‘duplicate lifeline, duplicate sun in the water’ (68)—is a common visual effect on the flooded savannahs during the raining season, where the Wapishana people live. The proximity of sky and earth in the fable is another aesthetic technique to construct this cosmogonic state of the amalgam of opposites.

29This is the ‘strangest intercourse of fate’, suggests the narrator: Wapishana is now interlaced—but still in opposition—to the image of the merchant—‘of fate’, ‘of soul’—gold and silver bargaining the existence. Symbols of greed in Western civilisation, such images locate capitalist ideology in its position of predator and conqueror and, because of that, as a threat. At this moment, the political note by the author, previously mentioned, can be seen at play: ‘Wapishana saw him (this merchant or bridegroom of conquest) approaching her upon the ritual staircase of god (. . .) as the reification of everything’ (69).

30At the ‘elder tree of animal’, the predatory relation between persona and space is an anthropophagic feast, unveiling silenced histories. Death, caused for example by the gold rush, is here transformed into life, when the difference between gold and laughter is revealed: the latter being more valuable as it enables existence. This perception is before the ‘subsidence of species’ (71), when all temporalities cohabit.

31When Wapishana rains down, in a ‘subjective precipitation’, she learns the weights and densities, which compose life, the ‘thickness of air and thinness of water’ in Harris’ words (72). As Farage proposes: ‘personhood, among the Wapishana, does not subsume to a simple dichotomy between body and soul, since, inextricable, body and soul are proposed as a gradient; a balanced dosage of these components is what makes up the human condition’. (105) Wapishana, Harris’ protagonist, discovers the making of life with the dual elements of nature and in the very substances in which nature is produced.

32At this cosmogenic moment, Wapishana visits—in the form of rain—the beginnings of time, when all life was undifferentiated. At the humid and dense space of corporeality, the protagonist finds trails, faces the abyss and its dangers. The final journey of Wapishana is the very ‘heart of antithesis’, a place of antipodes where Wapishana contemplates the assemblage of beings.

33Embraced with the character of the merchant of souls, her antagonist and a potential threat, Wapishana enlarges possibilities for humanity. After drowning with the merchant—‘in all states of mankind, stone as well as flood, tyrannical or benign’—in the abyssal lake of laughter, Wapishana is saved from extinction, saved from drought in a cloud of rain. The themes of ‘The Tree of Life’ and ‘The Visit to the Sky’ that permeate the fable explicitly converge at this point. In these narratives, the protagonist experiences the dangers of otherness, in inhospitable places like the sky or the bottom a lake. It is an intermediary between heaven and earth that brings back and saves the protagonist. In consonance with those Amerindian narratives’ theme and structure, the girl Wapishana is saved by the rain, after going to dangerous poles of difference—the heights of heaven and the depths of the lake. Spatially, these differences also resonate with Wapishana’s social distance in relation to the merchant.

34After crossing all the branches—or trees—of each species, the last, ’of god‘, the main branch, is the place of original undifferentiation. This is where Wapishana reaches the weightlessness of chant in life and laughter, the ‘good laughter’ that is essential to the recreation of humanity (Overing 2000: 76). Such reinvention, for Harris, is as necessary for Amerindian peoples as for Westerners: without the former, the latter would be lost, an idea which is the central core of Wilson Harris’ cross-cultural imagination. With the fertility of rain, Wapishana thus returns to corporality, bringing with her the necessary measurement of laughter, continuity of life, recreated into new existential possibilities. If this ‘fable’ had a moral, it would be the reinvention of humanity in Wapishana terms.

35This essay set out to critically examine the relationship between Amerindian traditions and ‘The Laughter of the Wapishanas’. In exploring ethnographic data on the Wapishana people, this study makes several contributions to the current critical literature, by showing how Amerindian discursive genres, textual structures, ritual practices, aesthetics and philosophy are at play in Harris’ written fiction. These findings are particularly relevant as they are based on other epistemes, different from the traditional categories of the literary studies, which can open new horizons to the Western reader. Creatively, the poetic fiction of Wilson Harris takes up the philosophical and textual premises of the Wapishana people in order to ponder on the human condition, as well as on the Guianese cultural diversity in the face of colonial processes. In this vein, the coda of the fable unveils: Wapishana searches for the source of laughter and does not find it in the highs or lows, not even in the hands of god or the merchant, but, yes, in herself, a formula that is the very Wapishana way of understanding the human condition.

Bibliographie

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Butt Colson, Audrey J. ‘Routes of Knowledge: An Aspect of Regional Integration in the Circum-Roraima Area of the Guiana Highlands’. Antropológica 63–64 (1985): 103–149.

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Maes-Jelinek, H. ‘Reviews: Natural and Psychological Landscapes Wilson Harris, The Sleepers of Roraima: A Carib Trilogy, Faber, I970, I.25; and The Age of the Rainmakers, Faber, I97I, I.25’. The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 7.1 (1972): 117–120.

Overing, Joanna, and Alan Passes, eds. The Anthropology of Love and Anger: The Aesthetics of Conviviality in Native Amazonia. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Overing, Joanna. ‘The Stench of Death and the Aromas of Life: The Poetics of Ways of Knowing and Sensory Process among Piaroa of the Orinoco Basin’. Tipití: Journal of The Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America 4.1 (2006): 9–32.

, Lúcia. Rain Forest Literatures. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

, Lúcia. ‘Guayana as a Literary and Imaginative Space’, in Anthropologies of Guayana: Cultural Spaces in Northeastern Amazonia, Neil L. Whitehead and Stephany W. Alemán, eds. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2009; 185–193.

Santilli, Paulo. ‘O Riso Castiga os Costumes’, in Roraima: Homem, Ambiente e Ecologia, Reinaldo I. Barbosa and Valdinar F. Melo, eds. Boa Vista: FEMACT, 2010; 95–108.

Swan, Michael. The Marches of Eldorado. 1958. Aylesbury, Slouth: Penguin Books, 1961.

Notes

1 Harris, Wilson. The Age of the Rainmakers. London: Faber & Faber, 1971.

2 Farage, Nádia. ‘As Flores Da Fala: Práticas Retóricas Entre Os Wapishana’. PhD thesis, Universidade de São Paulo, 1997. In her ethnography, the Brazilian anthropologist Nádia Farage analyses Wapishana rhetorical practices and discursive genres. Harris uses the terminology fable to refer to this textual production and thus it will be used here without problematising the concept.

3 , Lúcia. Rain Forest Literatures. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2004. , Lúcia. ‘Guayana as a Literary and Imaginative Space’, in Anthropologies of Guayana: Cultural Spaces in Northeastern Amazonia, Neil L. Whitehead and Stephany W. Alemán, eds. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2009; 185–193.

4 Maes-Jelinek, H. ‘Reviews: Natural and Psychological Landscapes Wilson Harris, The Sleepers of Roraima: A Carib Trilogy, Faber, I970, I.25; and The Age of the Rainmakers, Faber, I971, I.25’. The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 7.1 (1972): 117–120.

5 On the relation of Wilson Harris textuality and surrealism, see Burns, Lorna. ‘Uncovering the Marvellous: Surrealism and the Writings of Wilson Harris’, Journal of Postcolonial Writing 47.1 (2011): 52–64.

6 The spelling of the ethnonym follows the contemporary form used in ethnology. However, when quoting, the author’s spelling is maintained.

7 Swan, Michael. The Marches of Eldorado. 1958. Aylesbury, Slouth: Penguin Books, 1961, mentioned in the introductory note to the second narrative of The Age of the Rainmakers (Harris 1971) titled ‘The Mind of the Awakaipu’.

8 Overing, Joanna, and Alan Passes, eds. The Anthropology of Love and Anger: The Aesthetics of Conviviality in Native Amazonia. New York: Routledge, 2000; 64.

9 Santilli, Paulo. ‘O Riso Castiga os Costumes’, in Roraima: Homem, Ambiente e Ecologia, Reinaldo I. Barbosa and Valdinar F. Melo, eds. Boa Vista: FEMACT, 2010; 95–108.

10 See Koch-Grünberg, Theodor. Vom Roroima zum Orinoco: Mythen und Legenden der Taulipang- und Arekuna-Indianer, vol. 2. Stuttgart: Verlag Strecker und Schröder, 1924.

11 Overing, Joanna. ‘The Stench of Death and the Aromas of Life: The Poetics of Ways of Knowing and Sensory Process among Piaroa of the Orinoco Basin’. Tipití: Journal of The Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America 4.1 (2006): 18.

Auteur

Gabriel Cambraia Neiva is a PhD Candidate and Teaching Assistant at of Manchester. He has a BA in Literary Studies and his MA Research, awarded with a fully-funded scholarship, was entitled ‘Do canto xamânico e outras histórias’ (UFRR, 2015). It is a comparative reading of Wilson Harris’ The Age of the Rainmakers (1971) and ethnographical and travellers’ accounts of Amerindian textualities. For this research, he travelled various times to Guyana to do archival research and, during this time, had the opportunity to live in indigenous communities in the interior. Awarded with the President Doctoral Scholarship from the University of Manchester, his interdisciplinary PhD project analyses the cross-national region of the ‘Guianas’ as a literary space, through the Amerindian notion of Kanaima, under the supervision of Prof Lúcia Sá.

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