A social business experiment that supports indigenous people in Brazil and around the world
Lighting the thick, aromatic Breu resin sticks and Palo Santo wood offered by Brooklyn-based Incausa can transform the energy of a space in a few seconds, but learning the story behind the incense brand just might transform the way you live your life. "Incausa is a study in progress, about consciousness and sacred trade," founder Vinicius Vieira de Vieira tells CH. "To find meaningfulness in profit, for mindful growth, personal, community and society; to invite the sacred in our lives and reconnect with ceremony and ritual practice." Fighting for a future that's free of injustice, Vieira de Vieira has started by dedicating himself to the disenfranchised indigenous people in his home country of Brazil, one incense stick at a time.
Incausa aims to be a medium that bridges trade and traditions through organic mindfulness, every step of the process—from sourcing to selling. The goals, Vieira de Vieira tells CH, are to "connect the indigenous peoples to the global village and marketplace, use the proceeds from our incense trade to support a pro bono middleman and market placement position—working to find the fair price value for their ancient goods and ensure its capital gains return to the source in the most beneficial form to their community and cause, observing their values and culture." He continues, "With this work, we hope to uplift the appreciation for their own traditions and stimulate a return of indigenous peoples back to their own cultures while giving them an opportunity to sustain a living on trade."
"There is a long road ahead for finding fairness and commiseration," says Vieira de Vieira, noting that although he is considered Brazilian, his ancestors were European colonists who imposed their culture and laws upon the native people of Brazil. "The study here is for the mindful path towards new ways of trade and relationships." One way towards this mindful path of rebuilding a relationship is the daily practice of lighting incense: it brings awareness to their spirituality and rituals and serves as a mirror to our own customs of contemplation. The practice of burning incense therefore become a commonality that we can share and connect through, he says.
Incausa works in close collaboration with and helps financially support grassroots organization Raiz das Imagens (or "Roots of Images"), which teaches the Xavantes and other local indigenous people in Brazil how to use audiovisual technology. Empowering through cinema, Raiz das Imagens works to document, share and strengthen the identities and culture of indigenous Brazilians. After a 45-day workshop learning how to record, edit and post videos online, local people used the knowledge to capture illegal looters breaking into their reservation on camera, turning in the video footage over the Ibama police as evidence.
Incausa's incense stands out in two distinct ways: purity and transparency. Many commercial incense products contain toxic carcinogens that are added to make it burn evenly. For Vieira de Vieira, burning incense is an accessible way to the divine (taking cues from Native American spiritual traditions) by connecting through the sacred medicinal plants: "I want to burn this incense because I want to connect to the bursera graveolens [tree] of the palo santo, not because I want a rainbow [blend of] fragrance where I don't know what's in there." There are lengthy descriptions of each incense (of which there are three options, not including palo santo wood) found at Incausa's online store.
Aside from incense, Incausa currently also sells hand-hammered singing bowls from Tibet that vibrate with beautiful harmonic overtones when rubbed, and can also be struck like a gong. "Sometimes it's hard to enter a meditation state, especially in cities like New York," says Vieira de Vieira. "I find that the singing bowl is a great way to bridge that gap. If you play it and you're alone in your room, and you can listen to the whole arc of the song—it's almost infinite, because you don't know when it stops ringing or not. If you're in silence, trying to find that sound, and you do a few rounds of it; after the third [or so] round, you enter that state of emptiness and stillness."
Incausa is slowly expanding their offerings to soon include beautifully woven baskets created by the Xavantes people and woven purses created by the Krahô people, another indigenous people living in Brazil. Incausa only makes profit on the incense, which supports organizations like Raiz das Imagens; for all other goods, they return 100% back to the artisans. Vieira de Vieira perceives Incausa as a educational experiment that will continually evolve and one day effectively combat larger issues such as global poverty. "We hope to grow in respect to our motive of consciousness, learning new ways of understanding the reason for trade and capital," he says.
Images by Nara Shin