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Unique Photo Exhibition Will Highlight Yanomami’s Plight

A Yanomami shaman. The spirit world is a fundamental part of Yanomami life. © Claudia Andujar/Survival

“Claudia Andujar: The Yanomami Struggle” 
The Barbican, London, June 17 - August 29 2021

An exhibition of the extraordinary work of Brazilian photographer Claudia Andujar, opening in June at the Barbican in London, shines a light on the rich and complex cosmology of the Yanomami tribe – an Amazonian people whose very survival is now under threat.

Claudia, who settled in Brazil after escaping Nazi persecution in Europe, developed a close relationship with the Yanomami over many years, and became a redoubtable fighter for their rights.

She co-founded the Pro-Yanomami Commission, and worked with the Yanomami, allies in Brazil, and Survival International globally. She played a key role in securing legal recognition of their territory in 1992.

Her iconic photos were widely used to draw attention to their critical situation. She says: “When I started to photograph, I was seeking for a language in which I could express my feelings. When I started my relationship with the Yanomami, I was interested in how people interpret life – what it means to them. It’s a way of enriching myself. So this is why I was more interested in their rituals…. their spiritual interpretation of life, rather than just photographing an object… What impressed me most and what will stay with me for the rest of my life is their relationship with nature. The Yanomami are always part of nature. Nobody tries to dominate the other. This is what really attracted me in Yanomami thinking.”

Yanomami boy in the rainforest, Brazil. © Claudia Andujar/Survival

The Yanomami: current threats

But the Yanomami are now under threat as never before. 20,000 illegal gold miners occupy their territory. The miners’ impact has been devastating: Covid-19 and malaria are now rampant, many rivers have been polluted, and increasing numbers of Yanomami are dying – 10 children died in just two communities in January.

With their allies, last year the Yanomami launched the #MinersOutCovidOut campaign: 439,000 people signed their petition calling for government action.

The miners have been spotted operating near uncontacted Yanomami communities, who are especially vulnerable to outside diseases, and to violence from the miners.

President Bolsonaro and his allies are pushing hard to open up all indigenous lands in Brazil to mining and other industrial activities. The indigenous movement and Survival are fighting his plans and campaigning to #StopBrazilsGenocide.

Illegal mining on Yanomami land. © FUNAI

The Yanomami and Survival International

Survival International’s relationship with the Yanomami stretches back five decades. It’s the longest-running campaign in our history, now 52 years and counting.

At a time when few outside their territory had heard of them, Survival was protesting at plans to open up the tribe’s lands for mining and road-building.

Gradually the world took notice. In 1989 we brought Yanomami spokesperson Davi Kopenawa to Europe, the first time he’d travelled outside Brazil, and invited Claudia to accompany him. The global campaign culminated in 1992, when the Yanomami territory in Brazil was finally recognized in law. Davi later said: “Without Survival, we’d all be dead.”

Survival has continued working in close collaboration with the Yanomami as they struggle to protect their rainforest home from the constant invasion of their territory.

Davi Yanomami and Survival International Director Stephen Corry in 1989, on Davi’s first trip outside Brazil: Survival won the Right Livelihood Award, and asked Davi to accept it on Survival’s behalf.
© Survival


Survival has many resources for those wishing to cover the exhibition:

- Footage of an exclusive interview with Claudia about her life, and her work with the Yanomami.
- Exclusive footage of a conversation between Davi Yanomami and Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance, touching on story-telling, death, materialism and much more.
- B-roll footage of daily Yanomami life
- Archival video of the international campaign to protect the Yanomami territory
- Video interviews with renowned leader and shaman Davi Kopenawa Yanomami
- Photos of the Yanomami
- Survival’s Director of Research and Advocacy, Fiona Watson, who has visited and worked with the Yanomami for 30 years, is available for interview

Email if you’re interested in these resources.

© Scoop Media

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