For days the boys of Tatajuba have been telling us about their tiny weapons made of palm straw. I’ve seen entire arsenals of children’s weapons, but one made from palm straw was new to us.
Does the weapon fire something? I thought it did. But no, it doesn’t fire anything, instead it launches the boy into the life of a warrior.
Rodrigo’s backyard has enough palms to supply the whole gang with weapons.
We barely arrive and Gleistone and Antônio adjust their knives in their shorts and climb up the tree in search of leaves. Filming their spontaneity requires quick decisions from us. You need to focus quickly, without mistake, because the kids know what they want and go right for it, they don’t wait for you to adjust your camera. Often times you have to change lenses, get a tripod, ask a lady to turn off her radio so it doesn’t disrupt the scene but, meanwhile, the kids are off in an instant, following the timing of their desires. It’s hard to ask them to wait and still keep the initial spirit of spontaneity. We’re the ones who have to predict the unpredictable and follow the rhythms of childhood.
We can breathe more easily when it’s time to make the toys, look for the best light, change lens, find different angles, since it’s time for the hands to concentrate. They sit on the floor and focus on cutting, fixing, getting everything right.
The eyes try to see the machine gun, the pistol and the rifle inside the dried palm leaf. It takes about 30 minutes to sculpt the toy from the stem of a leaf. And the toy must be used quickly, because after a few days it will start to rot.
Even though they like to play with their tiny weapons at night, engaging in incredible battles between cops and robbers, they agreed to play in the morning so we could follow their chases and escapes.
I must admit, I doubted that they would really enter the reality of the weapons and warriors, but they did. The game of “cops and robbers,” so common in any setting, was lived intensely in the bushes, where hiding and seeking was essential. The cop that found a robber would point his weapon at him and make the typical sounds of a gun being fired. Hide-and-seek with weapons.
We’ve seen games with weapons, projectiles and cap guns in almost every community we pass through. Whether they are made of wood, papaya stems, PVC tubes, palm straw or bought in stores, and whether or not the adults like them, there they are in the daily life of Brazilian boys.
Text and photos: Renata Meirelles