Anápuáka Muniz Tupinambá Hã-Hã-Hãe is accustomed to cultural differences. Son of an indigenous father and a black mother, he was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, and always aware of his ancestry. From the ages of 8 to 13, he lived in the village of Tupinambá in the municipality of Pau Brasil in northeast Brazil. From there, he came to Rio de Janeiro to study in a school for “white people,” as he puts it. His passion for communication led him to his mission of creating space for indigenous people, without giving up the dialogue with everyone else.

In 2011, his efforts to stimulate an indigenous digital culture network were recognized by a Mozilla Firefox Award, which named him among the Libertadores da Web (Web Liberators). That year he began to seek the best way to connect the indigenous people of Brazil and give them a voice.

Two years later, Anápuáka created the first indigenous web radio broadcast in the country: Radio Yandê, which means “we” in the Tupi and Guarani languages. Yandê offers 24-hour programming,  attracts 2 million listeners in several countries and has more than 180 employees and correspondents in 26 Brazilian states as well as abroad. The broadcast can be accessed on the web or through an app.

Muniz is 43 and has five children and five grandchildren. He celebrates the idea of becoming an elderly person – Indians achieve this status at the age of 40 – because he now has more respect and political power in his community. He can, for example,  “participate in councils,” he says. Good-humored and full of youthful energy, Anápuáka down with Believe.Earth for an interview at his place in the Estácio neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro.

A 43-year-old dark-skinned man with wavy, black hair in front of a computer monitor. On the screen, a map of Brazil is displayed.

Anápuáka shows who is connected to Radio Yandê platform: Faithful listeners in Brazil and even in Frankfurt, Germany (Thiago Camelo/Believe.Earth)

BE – How was your experience in the Tupinambá village in Pau Brasil, in the southern Bahia?
Anápuáka
  I was conceived in the village, but I was born in the city and then returned to the village with my parents and my brother. I stayed there until I was 13. I always knew who I was. I never denied my Tupinambá identity. When I returned to the village, I was going home. My aunt Lucília did a great job with us all day long. We used to ride, throw with a bow and arrow, work with herbs, sing songs, and dance. We used to do things that we hadn’t done in practice, but only knew in theory. It was very intense. My parents later separated, and my brother and I came to Rio with my mother to study, because indigenous people couldn’t study in a school for white people in Pau Brasil. If I had not come, I certainly would not be here telling this story. Most of my teenage friends from the village died in land disputes. Being in both worlds was a fantastic experience, but I went through many traumas in the non-indigenous school in the city.

BE – Have you always kept your relationship with the village.?
Anápuáka –
Yes. I was away from Tupinambá village for 17 years and looked for other villages and people, which taught me  not to be ethnocentric, not to think only of my people. Then, I started working with digital communication and other cultures and movements (black, LGBT, slums, residents’ associations). I learned more about cultural dynamics and other people’s politics. After that, I joined the Ministry of Culture and helped creating Plano Setorial para as Culturas Indígenas (Sectoral Plan for Indigenous Cultures)in 2010. I’m proud of taking part in that from the beginning to the end.

 BE – Did your attraction to communication precede your involvement in the indigenous movement?
Anápuáka –
Yes, I was 6 when I got in touch with Programa de Índio (Indian Program) of Ailton Krenak [a Brazilian indigenous leader and environmentalist who gave a famous speech at the National Congress in 1987 and won constitutional land rights for indigenous people the following year], which set an example for me. At that moment, I thought, “Cool, indigenous people can communicate on the radio.” So, I always wondered why we didn’t have more media of our own. I worked in community radio, then commercial radio.

I worked on other media platforms, like Índios Online (Online Indians), but they did not meet my needs. I left them in 2007 and started helping other indigenous people create blogs. I learned about networks of digital cultures, and how to use other technologies.  I gathered ideas and began developing the concept of indigenous ethnomedia. In 2013, I was invited to perform on a program about indigenous people and I thought, “No. I want to have my own radio broadcast.”

The inner side of a person’s forearm with a tattoo, in yellow and red, representing an indigenous headdress.

A tattoo of the radio logo, on Muniz’s arm: “It’s been in my spirit for a long time. To be part of my skin is just a detail.” (Thiago Camelo/Believe.Earth)

BE – What was the content of the early broadcasts?
Anápuáka –
For the first streaming, we played our song collections. We also used third party content. We extracted audio from products that already existed, like documentaries, and we created programs. We invited relatives on, who had their own songs and realized that there were indigenous artists working in non-traditional genres, such as forró, heavy metal, rap, that were only played locally, and that we could give them more exposure. These artists had a lot of success, like Brô MC’s, Rap Oz Guarani, Arandu Arakuaa, Edivan Fulni-ô.

BE – In 2012,  in a letter,  members of Guarani-Kaiowá, an indigenous group, threatened collective suicide if the state acted on its decision to evict them from the land on which they lived, a territory known as Pyelito Kuê. How did you deal with that situation?
Anápuáka –
Denilson Baniwa [a publicist and one of the founders of the radio broadcast], Thereza Dantas [a journalist and cultural activist on indigenous issues] and I created the hashtag #eusouguaranikaiowa (#iamguaranikaiowa). We received the suicide letter and thought, “What are we going to do?” My suggestion was to create local movements. I said, “You can change the name [on Facebook profile].” I could not change my name, I’m already a Tupinambá. But I can make a hashtag. There were more non-indigenous than indigenous people joining the effort, because it sensitized them. Many people felt guilt, pain, motivation, and anger. Our net-activism grew out of this situation, creating blogs, content managers, networks and social media.

BE – Do you see developments of these virtual actions?
Anápuáka –
Yes. Some of the Guarani-Kaiowá, for example, became rappers, to sing not only in their traditional language, but to tell their own story to non-indigenous people. They began to create their content, to make partnerships. They no longer live in their ethnic isolation. People laugh at the saying “me Indian”. [refers to jokes and stereotypes  about how indigenous people sound when speaking “white” people’s languages] Then, if “Me is an Indian”, “Me can speak”.

Indigenous people have left their comfort zone to understand that they and their culture must also be part of the Brazilian nation, which does not respect them and makes them invisible. But, if they remain silent, the image of Indians will remain stuck in 1500, the time of the Brazil discovery, people who no longer exist, except as described by teachers at school in the past. They will not be a contemporary and physical presence.

BE – How do villages listen to the radio?
Anápuáka –
Not all villages have access to the internet. Many record our content, copy and take it on USB or mobile phones and listen to locally. Or ask for some programs and take them to the local radio stations, sharing them by WhatsApp.

BE – In which language are programs presented?
Anápuáka –
Each group produces content in its language. There is no translation. The broadcast was not made for me, but for the others. If I speak in Tupi, I’m talking to someone who speaks Tupi too. Each group produces for its own group. That is why it is an indigenous ethnomedia. Radio Yandê is just an amplifier of these languages.

BE – Does your work on indigenous technology and communication cause controversy?
Anápuáka –
I am loved, and I am hated, due to my work on contemporary issues, confronting some dogmas of indigenous culture. We have more than 300 people, more than 300 ways of thinking. The way I think and act will not please everyone. But I try to show that you can overcome certain things, and be traditional in others, so that they don’t get lost. I’ve been to villages that didn’t want technology at all. I won’t force anyone to have what they don’t want to have. My mission is to facilitate access. We don’t teach people how to use devices (cellular, computer, camera). It’s the concept, the language, the goal. This thinking is what we deal with directly.