By Holli Harms
This is an art exhibit beyond art.
It’s an exhibit that opens the viewer to an indigenous peoples and their life in a small corner of this planet. A people who want nothing more than to live with and care for the earth and its natural inhabitants without the trappings of modern society.
It’s an exhibit of exquisite photographs and inspirational art of the Yanomami struggling to maintain their existence. The exhibit consists of photographer Claudia Andujar’s pictures blended in with drawings of the Yanomami that will expose you and lead you to understand their way of life.
Claudia Andujar first encountered the Yanomami in 1971. In 1978, she and other activists created the Commission for the Demarcation of the Yanomami Park (CCPY). In 1992, with the help of Yanomami shaman and artist Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, Survival International, and the CCPY, the Yanomami land was demarcated as ‘Yanomami Park’. This allowed for the legal and immediate expulsion of illegal miners from the park. Miners, who not only stripped the land but also committed genocide against the Yanomami.
The Yanomami are one of the largest isolated tribes in South America and they want to maintain their isolation and livelihood. A livelihood of simple existence, being one with nature. They do not wish to become part of the civilized world. They do not wish to languish in the ordeals of money and power and greed that are part of our “cultured” existence. They want to be left to live their lives on this small and preciously gentle planet of ours as they choose. They are the caretakers of our planet.
Claudia Andujar’s enthralling photographs capture the Yanomami’s love of life and land. She exposes her camera over a period of years allowing us a glimpse into their way of living and being and touching on their practice of xapiripë, a hallucinogenic state that opens the Yanomami to the spirits of the world.
The art hangs throughout the space allowing viewers to walk among Andujar’s revealing photographs augmented by indigenous works of art by Yanomami artists that are both descriptive and stunning in their power.
There are videos as well, where you may sit and watch the Yanomami in their daily routines, their family life, hunting, and in the making of the yakoana powder, the powder inhaled by the Shaman to allow him to communicate with the xapiripë, and more, so much more.
The Yanomami culture understands the delicate balance of life lived in nature, intertwined with the unique and extraordinary world around them. Their art is about that balance, that way of life, their visible existence, and the not-so-visible existence of their spirit world, spirits that appear to the shaman in the form of small bright lights.
The Yanomami believe that everything on this planet has a spirit; trees, plants, water, rocks… Everything. They look at the whole planet as sacred ground.
The Yanomami are still facing genocide as illegal miners continue to poach on the land, mine for gold, and bring with them diseases and weapons that are killing the Yanomami.
Invasion by the “cultured, refined humans” in the name of greed is killing these amazing people. This exhibit hopes to expose the viewer to the unique beauty of the Yanomami and the need to help the safety of their tribe.
If you have ever been curious about, or wondered how these rainforest inhabitants live and thrive, don’t let this opportunity pass you by. If you were unaware of these people, but are now curious don’t let this opportunity pass you by.
“The Yanomami Struggle”, a comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the collaboration and friendship between artist and activist Claudia Andujar and the Yanomami people at The Shed.
The exhibition features over 200 photographs by Claudia Andujar, alongside drawings by Yanomami shaman and leader Davi Kopenawa, and over 80 drawings, paintings, and video works by Yanomami artists Aida Harika, André Taniki, Edmar Tokorino, Ehuana Yaira, Joseca Mokahesi, Morzaniel Ɨramari, Orlando Nakɨ uxima, Poraco Hɨko, Roseane Yariana, Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe, and Vital Warasi.
The Yanomami Struggle is on view through April 16 only. Exhibition tours with educators are free with admission.
The Shed 545 W 30th St, New York, NY 10001