by Akajuli Palanaiwa, Asiwae Wayana, Ikale Asaukili, Pekijen Kulitaikë et Mataliwa Kuliyaman
with a foreword by Philippe Erikson
Written entirely in Wayana, by Wayana, and for Wayana, Itënëimëk–Kunolo is a truly groundbreaking editorial project. Unlike previous publications in the Wayana language, it is neither a bilingual volume nor a translation of French or Portuguese. Here, for once, Itënëimëk–Kunolo is itself the original, demonstrating that one can indeed write and publish in a minority language of the Carib language family without following European models. The Wayana literally took writing quill in hand—very appropriately, a magnificent macaw (kunolo) feather, symbolizing readiness to fly on their own. Itënëimëk–Kunolo is thus an act of political empowerment and of identity affirmation. But the project is also an important milestone on the road to the “scriptural autonomy” of contemporary Wayana speakers, whether they live in Brazil, Surinam or French Guyana.
Yet Itënëimëk–Kunolo is by no means a manifesto. Instead, it relates for their friends and families back home the journey of discovery made by a team of learned Wayana and Apalaï who took part in an adventurous research project called SAWA (Wayana and Apalaï Indigenous Knowledge) in partnership with scholars and curators from the University of Paris Nanterre and the musée du quai Branly – Jacques-Chirac. It is for this reason that each of the chapters in the volume—richly illustrated so as to be easily read in public sessions in Wayana villages—corresponds to one of the stages of a currently endangered ritual known as eputop. The study of this ritual, in the hopes of contributing to its revival, was the Wayanas’ main motivation for engaging in the project.
Conceived and written by Wayana people for an essentially Amerindian readership, this special issue is also the fruit of an international collaborative research project involving the Wayana authors alongside ethnolinguists, anthropologists, curators, and research engineers of the University of Paris Nanterre and the musée du quai Branly. As such, Itenëimëk–Kunolo breaks the mold in the publishing universe. Such an exceptional, extraordinary, and pioneering project is certainly deserving of a special issue of Ateliers d'anthropologie.