Aerial View: The Shabonos: Circular Communal Dwellings of the Yanomami Tribes in Venezuela

© Antonio Mari Photographer

The shabonos (also known as xaponos, shaponos, or Yanos) are the traditional communal dwellings of the Yanomami tribes of Southern Venezuela and northern Brazil. They are circular communal buildings with an open-air central courtyard. The dwellings are reconstructed every few years to adapt their size to the community’s growth. They usually have a diameter of around 80 meters with a roofed area of approximately 10 meters wide, but very different sizes have been recorded.

Shabono Dwellings Technical Information

Our land has to be respected. Our land is our heritage, a heritage which protects us.

– Davi Kopenawa
President of Hutukara Yanomami Association

Yanomami communal Shabonos Dwellings Photographs
Aerial View: The Shabonos: Circular Communal Dwellings of the Yanomami Tribes in Venezuela

© Lars Løvold

The Shabonos: Circular Communal Dwellings of the Yanomami Tribes in Venezuela

© LArs Løvold

Shabono courtyard

© LArs Løvold


© LArs Løvold

Yanomami communal shabono in the Amazonas

© LArs Løvold

Yanomami Communal Shabono Construction

From southern Venezuela and northern Brazil, the Yanomami build Shabonos as temporary dwellings for the whole community. Used as temporary homes, traditionally constructed mainly of thatched palm leaves and wood, shabonos are built in clearings in the jungle, using the wood cleared to build a palisade with a thatched roof that has a hole in the middle.

In traditional Yanomami villages, multiple shabonos, each conical or rectangular in shape, surround a central open space. Some can house up to 400 people. The central area is used for activities such as rituals, feasts, and games. Each family has its own hearth where food is prepared and cooked during the day. At night, hammocks are slung near the fire, which is stoked all night to keep people warm.

The structures are elementary but include several details, which make them extremely functional. For instance, the roof is made up of two parts, an outer one covering the living area and which slopes outwards, and an inner one that slopes inwards overlapped to prevent the rain from entering the interior. The floor of the roofed area is made of beaten earth, raised slightly above the central communal area level.

The Yanomami believe strongly in equality among people. Each community is independent of others, and they do not recognize ‘chiefs.’ Decisions are made by consensus, frequently after long debates where everybody has a say.

Like most Amazonian tribes, tasks are divided between the sexes. Men hunt animals like a peccary, tapir, deer, and monkey, and often use curare (a plant extract) to poison their prey. Although hunting accounts for only 10% of Yanomami food, amongst men, it is considered the most prestigious of skills, and everyone greatly values meat.

No hunter ever eats the meat that he has killed. Instead, he shares it out with friends and family. In return, he will be given meat by another hunter.

Women tend to grow around 60 crops, which accounts for about 80% of their food. They also collect nuts, shellfish, and insect larvae. Wild honey is highly prized, and the Yanomami harvest 15 different kinds.

Yanomami Communal Shabonos Dwellings Plans
Yanomami communal Shabono in Venezuela

Yanomami communal shabono, Copyright Norbert Schoenauer

Axonometric View - Shabono: Circular Communal Dwellings in Venezuela

Axonometric View of a Shabono

Structure Detail - Shabono: Circular Communal Dwellings in Venezuela

Structure Detail

Yanomami Communal Shabono Plans
  1. Source: Survival International