"You will be called Ayopowe" - My uncle giving me my Yanomami name.
The day I reunited with my mother was one of the most emotional days in my life. However, I didn’t meet just mom. When I walked into my village for the first time I was immediately surrounded by members of my extended family. I have uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, and nephews, and a brother.
For the elders that knew me as a young toddler, it must have also been quite emotional for them to see me. I’ll never forget when I met my uncle for the first time in Irokai-teri. Watch the video above for a look into that special that moment
He was one of the few elders alive that knew my father. In fact, he was the headman during those days. I don’t know how old he was since they don’t keep track of birth dates. They don’t keep track of dates period. They don’t have the Gregorian calendar and their traditional counting systems consists of “one”, “two”, and “many”.
I just knew this guy was many years old. Despite his age, he was still full of vigor and energy. I was a little nervous since I didn’t exactly know how to behave when I met him. I kept asking myself, "Do I hug him? What do I say? Or what could I say since I didn’t speak Yanomami?"
So, I just copied his movements hoping to not be so awkward. When he put his hand on my shoulder, I had put mine on his. When his smile, I smiled. When he patted me I patted him. I was filled with happiness and humility to be able to look into this great man’s eyes, a master of the rainforest where he lived and raised a family throughout his entire life, and know that he was my kin – my uncle. My shoape.
I felt his intensity as he embraced me and christened me with my Yanomami name - Ayopewe
I had received several interpretations of my Yanomami name. So, here is what I know as I’ve pieced together translations from experts, missionaries, and other Yanomami.
Ãyõ is a root word for ã y õ ã i, which is an intransitive verb that refers taking a long detour, or a walk, to avoid something, someone, or someplace. Ãyõkõ refers walking around, or circling around, in search of something. Ã y õ r i ã i refers putting something in back of something else, or pass behind. (Source: Diccionario enciclopédico de la lengua yãnomãmi by Jacques Lizot)
I really don’t know why my uncle named me Ayopewe. I know it came to him in a vision. I never got the chance to get a deeper understanding of my name. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago.
A name is what you make it. You make your own identity. So if I had to summarize it in English – I would say Taking a detour or The Way Around. Such is the title of my book, "The Way Around."
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