Wai Wai


wai-wai indigenous group of Guyanese Amerindians

It was a place I never expected to reach. In the deep south of Guyana, while working on images for an aerial photographic book on the country, we took off from Dadanawa Ranch, once the largest privately owned ranch in the world and across the expansive South Rupununi savannahs to the edge of the rainforest. Flying further south, over a dense and pristine canopy of green, the massive palm thatched cone of the communal hut (benhab) of the Wai Wai stood proud above the foliage. Our direction of flight first took us over the now seldom used community center on the edge of a great bend in the Essequibo River offering a sense of serenity, calm and belonging. Where the human footprint still looked small against a backdrop of wilderness – rare sight in today’s world. We landed our chopper at Gunns, in the Konashen region amongst the community buildings. Now missionarised the Wai Wai are a small indigenous group of Guyanese Amerindians living close to the border of Brazil. The Wai Wai hold title to a now protected area of 2300 square miles and still retain a deep sense of cultural identity. Despite their western apparel and hunger for possessions from the developed world, they maintain a strong affinity with the forest, relying on it to provide food and building materials. Indeed, a privilege to visit such a remote community who have received few visitors but hope, one day, to host foreign tourists to be able to showcase the incredibly diverse fauna that includes regular sightings of jaguars.

Pete Oxford

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