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The Bororo of Central Brazil are the only contemporary Amerindian people to maintain double burial practices as part of their mortuary ceremonies. The ritual cycle that accompanies these practices is a three-month-long spectacle of movement, sound, and colour that mobilises various modes of relation among the living and between the living and the dead. It is precisely these relationships and how they are revealed through songs, ornaments, and food offerings that form the main subject of my PhD field research. Each photo presented here was taken during a different phase of the Bororo mortuary cycle and intends to display the centrality of body ornamentation in dealings with the aroe, the Bororo term for ‘dead souls’. While the first photo shows one of the dances performed while the deceased’s body was buried in the centre of the circular village, the second photo was taken on the day the body was exhumed and the bones dyed red and covered with feathers. The woman in this photo danced with the mortuary basket moments before it housed the ornamented bones. Finally, the third image shows the final act of the Bororo mortuary complex: the retribution for the killer of a large predator, the avenger of the dead.


Making the souls dance

A singer faces a line of ornamented dancers, each one personifying the soul of a specific deceased person. The movement and sound of the rattles soothe the unsettled souls upon their arrival in the village.


A dancer’s gaze

A woman has her already worn-out ornamentation adjusted in a pause from the strenuous task of dancing with the mortuary basket, which will house the deceased person’s bones.


The avenger's prize

A man who avenged a death by killing an ocelot is carefully adorned by the dead person’s kin. From now on, he can make and use the received facial and cotton designs – otherwise exclusive of the deceased’s clan.