The Akawaio language of Guyana has 5,000 to 6,000 speakers. The term Akawaio was given to them by outsiders. This people group call themselves “Kapoŋ” and live mostly in northwestern Guyana along the Upper and Lower Mazurni River basins, while some live across the border in Brazil and Venezuela.
The Kapoŋ prefer their traditional way of life in separate family units in the rainforests as hunter-gatherers and fishermen, however, there has been a shift to subsistence farming in large communities along rivers due to the introduction of schools, and other economic and social factors.
Development in the language over more than a decade, resulted in a practical alphabet, literacy primers, reading books, as well as the lexical database for this dictionary and a translation of the New Testament. Members of the Kapoŋ community use their language in certain contexts such as home and school and desire to preserve their cultural heritage.
Visit the Akawaio dictionary site to learn more about the language or to use the dictionary.
Jawalla schoolchildren on their way to school in a woodskin canoe © Ray Stegeman
Typical Akawaio house with a roof made of metal drums, flattened out © Ray Stegeman
Alleluia Church building, Jawalla village © Ray Stegeman
Sunday School children in Jawalla village © Ray Stegeman
School children gather outside Jawalla Primary School building © Ray Stegeman
View of Jawalla village from the translation centre building © Ray Stegeman