from the Portuguese by Mary Ann Caws and Claudia Caliman
Cannibalism: An Introduction to
Oswaldo de Andrade’s “Cannibal Manifesto”
The starting date for the Brazilian modernist movement, which advocated a
return to the soil, is usually given as 1922, when the major impulse was given
by the Week of Modern Art. This revolutionary approach was announced by a woman
painter, Anita Malfatti, “the protomartyr of modernism,” whose forward-looking
paintings in her second exhibition, in 1917, were derided by Monteiro Lobato
(He claimed that she simply contributed her own “-ism” in her paintings where a
horse and rider fall over: “I call this genre topple-ism”).
But he himself had a great influence on Brazilian
modernism’s most celebrated text, Oswald de Andrade’s “Cannibal Manifesto” of
1928. Also called the “Brazilwood Manifesto,” because it champions the use of
native material and turns against artifice, this manifesto takes its name from
the cannibalistic Tupi Indians of Brazil who disposed gastronomically of an
unloved Bishop. It is outrageously satirical, reading in part: “Only
cannibalism unites us... Tupi or not tupi, that is the question.”
The manifesto shares the title of a Dada
publication of two issues, Cannibale, whose lively primitivistic spirit
is joined to the Russian Rayonists, with their Why-We-Paint-Our-Faces manifesto
against the sophisticated and over-civilized society.
Andrade’s preface to Seraphim Ponte Grande
is another modernist manifesto that repudiates Modernism: “The Modernist
Movement, culminating in anthropophagous measles, seemed to indicate an
advanced phenomenon.” Elsewhere, he distinguishes between the two: “Simultaneity
is the coexistence of things and events at a given moment. Polyphony is
the simultaneous artistic union of two or more melodies which have the fleeting
effect of clashing sounds as they contribute to a total final effect.”
by Oswaldo de Andrade
Only Cannibalism unites us. Socially. Economically. Philosophically.
The unique law of the world. The disguised expression of
all individualisms, all collectivisms. Of all religions. Of all peace treaties.
Tupi or not tupi that is the question.
Against all catechisms. And against the mother of the
I am only interested in what’s not mine. The law of men.
The law of the cannibal.
We are tired of all those suspicious Catholic husbands in
plays. Freud finished off the enigma of woman and the other recent
What dominated over truth was clothing, an impermeable
layer between the interior world and the exterior world. Reaction against
people in clothes. The American cinema will tell us about this.
Sons of the sun, mother of living creatures. Fiercely met
and loved, with all the hypocrisy of longing: importation, exchange, and
tourists. In the country of the big snake.
It’s because we never had grammatical structures or
collections of old vegetables. And we never knew urban from suburban, frontier
country from continental. Lazy on the world map of Brazil.
One participating consciousness, one religious rhythm.
Against all the importers of canned conscience. For the
palpable existence of life. And let Levy-Bruhl go study prelogical mentality.
We want the Cariba Revolution. Bigger than the French
Revolution. For the unification of all the efficient revolutions for the sake
of human beings. Without us, Europe would not even have had its paltry
declaration of the rights of men.
The golden age proclaimed by America. The golden age. And
all the girls.
Filiation. The contact with the Brazilian Cariba Indians. Ou
Villegaignon print terre. Montaigne. Natural man. Rousseau. From the French
Revolution to Romanticism, to the Bolshevik Revolution, to the Surrealist
Revolution and the technological barbarity of Keyserling. We’re moving right
We were never baptized. We live with the right to be
asleep. We had Christ born in Bahia. Or in Belem do Pata.
But for ourselves, we never admitted the birth of logic.
Against Father Vieira, the Priest. Who made our first loan,
to get a commission. The illiterate king told him: put this on paper but
without too much talk. So the loan was made. Brazilian sugar was accounted for.
Father Vieira left the money in Portugal and just brought us the talk.
The spirit refuses to conceive spirit without body.
Anthropomorphism. Necessity of cannibalistic vaccine. For proper balance
against the religions of the meridian. And exterior inquisitions.
We can only be present to the hearing world.
We had the right codification of vengeance. The codified
science of Magic. Cannibalism. For the permanent transformation of taboo into
Against the reversible world and objectified ideas. Made
into cadavers. The halt of dynamic thinking. The individual a victim of the
system. Source of classic injustices. Of romantic injustices. And the
forgetfulness of interior conquests.
Screenplays. Screenplays. Screenplays. Screenplays.
Screenplays. Screenplays. Screenplays.
Death and life of hypotheses. From the equation I coming
from the Cosmos to the axiom Cosmos coming from the I.
Subsistence. Knowledge. Cannibalism.
Against the vegetable elites. In communication with
We were never baptized. We had the Carnival. The Indian
dressed as a Senator of the Empire. Acting the part of Pitt. Or playing in the
operas of Alencar with many good Portuguese feelings.
We already had communism. We already had a surrealist
language. The golden age.
Magic and life. We had relations and distribution of fiscal
property, moral property, and honorific property. And we knew how to transport
mystery and death with the help of a few grammatical forms.
I asked a man what was Right. He answered me that it was
the assurance of the full exercise of possibilities. That man was called Galli
Mathias. I ate him.
The only place there is no determinism is where there is
mystery. But what has that to do with us?
Against the stories of men that begin in Cape Finisterre.
The world without dates. Without rubrics. Without Napoleon. Without Caesar.
The fixation of progress by means of catalogues and
television sets. Only with machinery. And blood transfusions.
Against antagonistic sublimations brought over in sailing
Against the truth of the poor missionaries, defined through
the wisdom of a cannibal, the Viscount of Cairo – It is a lie repeated many
But no crusaders came to us. They were fugitives from a
civilization that we are eating up, because we are strong and as vindictive as
the land turtles.
Only God is the conscience of the Uncreated Universe,
Guaraci is the mother of all living creatures. Jaci is the mother of
We never had any speculation. But we believed in
divination. We had Politics, that is, the science of distribution. And a
Migrations. The flight from tedious states. Against urban
scleroses. Against Conservatives and speculative boredom.
From William James and Voronoff. Transfiguration of taboo
into totem. Cannibalism.
The pater familias is the creation of the stork
fable: a real ignorance of things, a tale of imagination and a feeling of
authority in front of curious crowds.
We have to start from a profound atheism in order to reach
the idea of God. But the Cariba did not have to make anything precise. Because
they had Guaraci.
The created object reacts like the Fallen Angel. Ever
since, Moses has been wandering about. What is that to us?
Before two Portuguese discovered Brazil, Brazil discovered
Against the Indian de tocheiro. The Indian son of
Mary, the godson of Catherine of Médicis and the son-in-law of Don Antonio de
Happiness is the real proof.
No Pindorama matriarchy.
Against Memory the source of habit. Renewed for personal
We are concrete. We take account of ideas, we react, we
burn people in the public squares. We suppress ideas and other kinds of
paralysis. Through screenplays. To believe in our signs, to believe in our
instruments and our stars.
Against Goethe, against the mother of the Gracos, and the
Court of Don Juan VI.
Happiness is the real proof.
The struggle between what we might call the Uncreated and
the Created – illustrated by the permanent contradiction of man and his taboo.
Daily love and the capitalist modus vivendi. Cannibalism. Absorption of the
sacred enemy. To transform him into a totem. The human adventure. Earthly
finality. However, only the pure elite manage to realize carnal cannibalism
within, some sense of life, avoiding all the evils Freud identified, those
religious evils. What yields nothing is a sublimation of the sexual instinct.
It is a thermometric scale of cannibalist instinct. Once carnal, it turns
elective and creates friendship. Affectivity, or love. Speculative, science. It
deviates and transfers. We arrive at utter vilification. In base cannibalism,
our baptized sins agglomerate – envy, usury, calumny, or murder. A plague from
the so-called cultured and Christianized, it’s what we are acting against.
Against Anchieta singing the eleven thousand virgins in the
land of Iracema – the patriarch Joa Ramalho the founder of Sao Paulo.
Our independence was never proclaimed. A typical phrase of
Don Juan VI – My son, put this crown on your head, before some adventurer does
it! We expel the dynasty. We have to get rid of the Braganza spirit, the
ordinations and snuff of Maria da Fonte.
Against social reality, dressed and oppressive, defined by
Freud – in reality we are complex, we are crazy, we are prostitutes and without
prisons of the Pindorama matriarchy.
*“The New Moon, or the Lua Nova,
blows in Everyman remembrances of me” in The Savages, by Couto
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Reprinted from Manifestos: A Century of Isms (Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press, 2001).
Copyright ©2001 by
Mary Ann Caws and Claudia