Motta & Lima

16 Oct –
6 Dec 2020

International Screen Series

Xapiri is an experimental film by two artists, Gisela Motta and Leandro Lima, who live and work in São Paulo, Brazil. The film is inspired by Yanomami shamanism. 

The Yanomami are one of the indigenous forest-dwelling peoples deep in the Amazon River basin in South America. They did not have sustained contact with the outside world until the 1950s and were characterised as the “fierce people”. 

The deeply spiritual world of the Yanomami centres around their shamanic leaders. They access the spiritual realm by inhaling powerful psychedelic substances derived from rainforest plants: ‘This is how we make the spirits (xapiri) dance. There are many, many xapiri, not just a few, but thousands, like stars. Some live in the sky, some live under the ground and others live in the high mountains which are full of forests and flowers.’ 

Xapiri is a surreal journey into the heart of Yanomami shamanism. The film is designed to have two different notions of the image - the Yanomami and ours. It does not try to explain shamanism, rather it visualises the way shamans incorporate the xapiri within their bodies to give them form and voice. 

Xapiri was filmed in the village of Watoriki Reserve, Roraima, in the Brazilian Amazon, over the course of two annual meetings of shamans in March 2011 and March 2012, and included the collaboration of Indigenous organisation Hutukara Yanomami Association. 



The Cairns Art Gallery acknowledges the Gimuy Walubarra Yidinji and Yirrganydji as the Traditional Owners of the area today known as Cairns. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, names or voices of deceased persons in photographs, film or text.