Reflecting a Community

The Yanomami is one of the largest Indigenous groups in the Amazon, with a population of approximately 54,000 people. In March 2023, The New York Times reported that “an explosion of illegal mining has created a humanitarian crisis, cutting their food supplies, spreading malaria and, in some cases, threatening violence.” Davi Kopenawa (b. 1956), shaman and leader of his community on the Catrimani River, has been a spokesperson in the face of destructive land exploitation for over five decades.

Now, MUAC presents a retrospective dedicated to the long collaboration between Kopenawa, the people, as well as artist and activist Claudia Andujar (b. 1931), whose lifelong relationship with the Yanomami began in 1971. Her photography advocates for their rights and territory, but she recognises that the camera can never be truly objective. Photojournalism can “other” the subject, detaching them from the observer. A strong personal connection with the people she photographs is integral to her practice, so that she understands the worldview she is representing. Curator Thyago Nogueira explains: “The project was to understand the Yanomami and offer a representation of culture, not to give an outside point of view.”

Techniques like infra-red film, colour filters and slow shutter speeds show the rainforest from a Yanomami perspective. In Collective house near the Catholic mission on the Catrimani River, Roraima State (1976), trees appear bleached white against vibrant magenta leaves – it’s almost magical. Infra-red, applied by other lens-based artists like Richard Mosse and Paolo Pettigiani, is attention-grabbing, forcing audiences to see familiar sights with fresh eyes. It is essential that efforts to protect the Amazon, and the wider global climate, do not neglect Indigenous communities who have long been living in, and caring for, these environments. Andujar proves that conservation, protection and social justice must come hand-in-hand.

MUAC, Mexico City: Claudia Andujar and the Yanomami Struggle | Until 15 October

Words: Diana Bestwish Tetteh

Image Credits:

  1. Claudia Andujar. Collective house near the Catholic mission on the Catrimani river. State of Roraima (1976). Inkjet printing from infrared film. Courtesy of the artist.
  2. Claudia Andujar. Nego Wakatha u thëri wearing the helmet of a construction company, near the North Perimeter Road, Catrimani (1975). Inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist.
  3. Claudia Andujar. Susi Korihana thëri. Catrimani (1972‒1974). Inkjet printing from infrared film. Courtesy of the artist.