Art-Life Rituals for Radical Tenderness (5/12)


Like the act of pruning a plant, we hurt to trigger growth. In the scarring processes we heal our wounds of memory, of thought, of soul.

Translation by the author and Dani d’Emilia

November 2021 – Raposa, Maranhão, North East Pindorama,[1] Abya Yala.[2]

In the first years of my life, in the city of Botucatu, I said nothing about it.

PDF deste artigo disponível em português aqui

In the city of Ilha Solteira, and later in Americana and Campinas, I resorted to art as an escape valve: music, theatre, dance, visual arts—the body present, always. Judo up to the blue belt, Karate Shotokan up to the brown one. Painted, naked, assembled body; body altered in the molds of the countryside of the State of São Paulo. Classist. Fascist. Cis body, white.

Molested body. Child body fractured by repeated sexual abuse suffered over several years.

No body is healthy when outraged.

Seek breath in art as sustenance for the spirit that weakens itself yesterday-today-tomorrow through a rupture in the pact of parental trust.

At the age of fourteen I started with body modifications: Gradually I completed seven holes in my earlobes. Then came the first tattoo, the second, the third…the piercings spread all over the body and the tattoos even more. There are already more than forty.

Like the act of pruning the plant, hurting to trigger growth. In the scarring process we heal our wounds of memory, of thought, of soul.

I have been doing this as a professional practice for almost 30 years and I know that for many people it works the same way: the wounded body awakens a process of resistance, and recovering its physical state strengthens its spiritual, immaterial realm.

Three photos: image one is the artist's naked body covered a chunky, off-white substance while he cradles a mass of the substance. Image two is the artist piercing a woman's back with long feathers which protrude horizonally. They are in a public space. Image three is the artist hanging upside down from a ladder rung. He is naked except for gloves and his scrotum is ballooned.
Image 1: BETWEEN BIRTHS AND BOMBS (SP 2013). Kidney surgery recovery performance after “near death” episode, in Rio de Janeiro, during the 2013 anarchist demonstrations. Photo: Claire Jean.
Image 2: The Consecration of Urubutsin, (MA 2014). First appearance of myself and Elton Panamby in São Luís, Maranhão, as we began our process of approaching and landing on the island of Upaon Açu. Photo: Jesus Perez Chuseto.
Image 3: Ron Athey’s artist residency at CASA 24 (RJ 2012). Introduction of 2 litres of saline solution into the scrotum. Photo: Fabiano da Silva.

Water and land have always been fundamental allies in these processes of restoring body balance. I, son of an agronomist and an artisan, son of Ogum and Iemanjá, have always trusted in the power of waters, of plants, of minerals, and the strength of well-forged metals, of the correct and precise tools for carrying out a rite of passage.

For years the movement was one of guerrilla warfare, against everyone and even, I believe, against myself, leading me to neglect taking care of my body in a holistic way.

But since I chose performance as part of my self-healing process, my body has developed methods of strengthening and building stamina through the pain of pruning branches and dry leaves.

To remain silent about the violence I suffered activated, over the decades, a harmful mechanism of residual retention in the kidneys, especially in the left kidney, now classified as “medullary sponge.”

For 20 years I have struggled to stay upright every time the stones reappear, curiously always after periods of depression and dehydration.

When I met the artist Elton Panamby, my partner since 2009, my performance took on an admittedly more healing character. I acquired a more ritualistic mode of operation at each performance, creating rites of passage from the teachings that have crossed my path over many years of research into different Pindoramic original peoples.

When I married Panamby we were painted and covered in artifacts (necklaces, belts, and bracelets) by the chief Kotok Kamayurá and other Kamayurá we met and lived with for eight days in southern Bahia in 2010.

The following year, an acute kidney crisis led me to look for Pajé[3] Sapaim Kamayurá who, because of an ecumenical congress at UERJ (Rio de Janeiro State University), was in Rio de Janeiro, where Panamby had just moved and where I went to live a few months later, leaving the state of São Paulo for good. Sapaim operated on me, magically removing six grayish brown balls from my back, from my kidney, which disappeared in the air.

I stayed in Rio de Janeiro for 7 years, learning with the transvestites at CASA NEM’s[4] guerrilla libertarian school and at the great mothership CASA 24,[5] where we lived.

But leaving São Paulo for Rio de Janeiro was not enough, I had to leave the Southeast to strengthen my purposes in the search for a cure through the plants, the waters, the lands, and the knowledge of native peoples.

Panamby went to Maranhão and, pregnant, invited me to migrate again.

Some plants have become constant partners, like the Stone-breaker, also known as the Gale.[6]

Nomadic, I’m searching for something that is back there, in the chronology of the present matter.

Now, in the movement of the tides on the island of Upaon Açu, I recover after another episode of interruption to the flow of life, due to the obstruction caused by kidney stones of incalculable pain. I once again go through familiar specialties: UROLOGY, NEPHROLOGY, CARDIOLOGY.

After 100 days of treatment and apparently without stones (soon to be confirmed in a new tomography exam), I conclude this period by ritualizing and asking for help from the clay of life and death—the mangrove swamp—and to the stones, the waters, and lands from here.


It is necessary to understand that the context of the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically aggravated the risk of attending and walking through dozens of corridors of hospitals and medical units, infinitely increasing the fear of being where I had to be, in addition to the discomfort caused by trauma, anesthesia, and various intravenous medications. That’s what I need to get rid of, I need to plow and wash myself in an endless river. I need to wash out my kidney.

[clay poem]



The artist's torso and head covered in wet brown clay. His eyes and mouth are obscured by the clay.

The year of the metal ox is coming to an end. I prepare to end my kidney healing process. The scintigraphy says yes: I will keep my kidney. The kidney stays; the stone leaves!

This illness arising from the crystallization of my sorrows only dissolves with many waters that pour from me, from the earth, from the stones, but that only heal when they circulate, run free, travel through open and complete paths.

From my union with Elton Panamby, Txai came into this world.

Conceived five years ago in Rio de Janeiro, at CASA 24, sprout of the Ribeirão Fountain, ginger black Txai Panamby is the second member of the Panamby family. Afroamerican, of black and Tupi heritage, they are reborn after centuries of peoples being erased through slavery and colonialism.

Renal Healing Ritual

With Txai I developed the movement of this performative healing rite. He indicated the locations and the elements. Every detail was designed by me and Txai, our tireless collaborator and co-author, our little healer and curator.

Elton and Txai know my pain and why each element was chosen for this rite: the rhythm, the weight, the dense delicacy of the ceremonial act of (im)planting a healing herb, the powerful Stone-breaker, in the urethra, the same narrow orifice invaded several times by probes, double-J catheters, cannulas, and cameras; and where the stones—imploded by electrical impulses—came out through delicate and precise surgeries performed in the last 4 months.

It was Elton and Txai who gathered together the plants and prepared many litres of stone-breaker medicine to clean my kidney and dissolve my stones.

Together, we elaborated the propositions that I made to complete my healing process.

Firstly, Txai and I planned the action, creating these four hand drawings:

Four drawings in a collage made by the artist and his child. Two depict the artist's body, one depicts a pile of rocks, and another depicts a penis coming out of the ground with a plant coming from the urethra.

Some days later, Elton assisted me in the renal healing ritual through a performative action which involved 3 stages:

1 – Cover my head with annatto[8] and cover my body with clay from Mangue Seco,[9] where Txai’s placenta is buried.

2 – Cover the second, third and fourth chakras with local stones.

3 – Insert the root of a Stone-breaker plant (Phyllanthus Niruri) in my urethra.

Three photos: photo one is the artist's body covered in clay, with natural red paint covering his face. Photo two is the artist's torso and groin, with rocks placed on his chest, belly, and crotch. Photo three is the head of a penis with a leafy root coming from the urethra.

An invitation

As an invitation for a ritual action that may enable an experience close to what I live—but without the need to take risks that I recognize are part of the nature of my work in performance—I propose that each person performs a ritual of uncovering: to disfigure, bury oneself to be reborn as another presence. Changing oneself through the erasure of the self, through the burial of the body. Creating an intimate moment of recognition, self-knowledge and listening to oneself. A ritual for oneself.

To perform the ritual, take into consideration the following elements:


Identify and/or prepare a safe environment. Consider aspects such as time, smells, sounds, lighting, among other details that may contribute to the performance of the ritual.


Think of materials with symbolic charge that represent something significant for you in the process of “interrupting addictions to consumption, not only of ‘stuff’ but also of knowledge, experiences, and relationships” and “deactivating the longing for protagonism, greatness and legacy.” Choose a material with which it is possible to cover your entire body. I suggest something organic (such as stones, leaves, earth, etc.), but if this is not possible or pertinent, it is also interesting to use a seemingly ordinary material (such as toilet paper, sandals, a record collection, love letters, etc.). It is important that the material recalls a memory of something pleasant, healing, and/or reconciling.


If necessary, think of people who can help you in the preparation, execution, and documentation of the ritual and speak to them about how they can support you. If you don’t feel comfortable performing the process in the presence of others, do it alone. Don’t take unnecessary risks—the experience should be lived in accordance with the possibilities of each person and context, with consciousness and self care.

4 – BODY

Prepare your body. Choose something light and discreet to wear, the fewer clothes the better. Or do not wear any clothes at all, which will make it easier to feel the contact of your skin with the ground and with the material on the body. The most important thing is that your body feels prepared, and present.


Try to remain for a considerable time, without haste, slowing down the clock of daily acts and creating a space-time other, outside of timeframe and the linearity of mundane events. The time of permanence with the body completely covered is at the discretion of each person, but I suggest a minimum of 15 minutes.

Photo of the artist lying down, head raised, covered in red powder, berries, flowers, and leaves.
NO CAIAR DO CORPO (SP 2015). Performance celebrating the healing of new kidney stone occurrences, after surgery performed in Rio de Janeiro. Photo Edson Vieira Filho.


[1] Pindorama was what the Tupi-Guaranis (one of the original peoples of these lands) called Brazil before the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500. The word pindó-rama, is an abbreviation of pindó-retama, which in Tupi language means “Land of Palm Trees.”

[2] Abya Yala is the name by which the Kuna people, the original people of the lands currently known as Colombia and Panama, called the continent we know today as America. Abya means “blood,” which for the Mesoamerican peoples meant life. In the language of the Kuna people, Abya Yala means “mature land,” “living land”, or “flourishing land.”  Many Indigenous peoples and people dedicated to the fight against coloniality currently use the term Abya Yala to name Latin America as a political position that recognizes the existence of ways of life and knowledge long before modernity.

[3] In Brazilian Indigenous traditions the pajé is the highest representative for healing and spirituality in a community. Their gift is ancestral and acquires knowledge through a lifetime of learning from human and non-human relatives.

[4] CASA NEM is a shelter founded by activist Indianarae Alves Siqueira in the city of Rio de Janeiro that houses LGBTIA+ people in situations of social vulnerability, mostly transsexuals and transvestites. It develops programmes and activities in several areas, focusing on the autonomy and culture of its residents, as well as providing services and offering workshops and courses to the local community.

[5] CASA 24 was a space-home of libertarian culture, a shelter and hub for the artistic production of the LGBTIA+ community in Lapa, downtown Rio de Janeiro, that Elton and I helped to create and take care of, having it as our life base between 2012-2018.

[6] Phyllanthus niruri is a generic tropical plant commonly found in coastal areas. It is also known by the common names of Gale of the Wind, Seed-under-leaf, or Stone-breaker. This last name is inspired by the plant’s ability to destroy kidney and urinary tract stones. Because it is antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory, it also helps combat various other ailments.

[7] “Saudade is a unique Galician-Portuguese word that has no immediate translation in English. It describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Saudade was once described as “the love that remains” after someone is gone. It is also the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again.”

[8] Annato, known in Brazil as Urucum, is a plant extensively used by different native peoples of Pindorama in the manufacture of red paint, in the production of medicines, and in food preparation. Urucum paint is associated with life—it brings strength, health, and protection.

[9] Mangue Seco is a fishing village in Raposa city, located in the state of Maranhão, in the northeast region of Brazil.

Filed Under: Photo & Video


Filipe is an artist and performer from São Paulo who has resided in Maranhão since 2017. He is a researcher of the culture and healing practices of Brazilian Indigenous peoples. For the last 12 years he has developed a professional partnership with the artist Elton Panamby in performances, rites of passage, and public acts.

Signup for the ArtsEverywhere newsletter

icon-angle icon-bars icon-times