Susi Korihana thëri, infrared film, Catrimani, Roraima State, Brazil,1972-1974. Picture © Claudia Andujar.

Exhibition overview

In December 2019, the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain will present the most ambitious exhibition ever devoted to Brazilian photographer Claudia Andujar, who since the 1970s has dedicated her life to photography and the protection of the Yanomami Indians, one of the largest Amerindian communities in the Brazilian Amazon. Conceived by Thyago Nogueira for the Instituto Moreira Salles in Brazil, Claudia Andujar, The Yanomami Strugglefeatures over 200 black-and-white and color photographs, many of which have never been shown before, as well as an audiovisual installation, historical documents, and drawings produced by Yanomami artists. The fruit of several years’ research into the photographer’s archives, the exhibition reflects the two inseparable aspects of her approach: one aesthetic, the other political. The exhibition also shows Claudia Andujar’s significant contribution to photographic art and the essential role she has played and continues to play in the defense of Yanomami rights and the forest in which they live.

The exhibition in detail

I am connected to the indigenous, to the land, to the primary struggle. All of that moves me deeply. Everything seems essential. Perhaps I have always searched for the answer to the meaning of life in this essential core. I was driven there, to the Amazon jungle, for this reason. It was instinctive. I was looking to find myself.
Claudia Andujar

Born in 1931 in Neuchâtel (Switzerland), Claudia Andujar lives in São Paulo. Following a childhood spent in Transylvania, she returned to Switzerland with her mother during the Second World War to escape Nazi persecution in Eastern Europe.

Her father, a Hungarian Jew, was deported to Dachau where he was killed along with the majority of his family. Following the war, Claudia emigrated to the United States and in 1955, moved permanently to Brazil where she embarked on a career as a photojournalist.

She met the Yanomami Indians for the first time in 1971 while participating in a report on the Amazon for Realidade magazine. Fascinated, she was able to carry out a more extensive project on the world of the Yanomami thanks to a scholarship from the Guggenheim Foundation. Her approach was radically different to the documentary style

of her contemporaries. She experimented with different techniques in an effort to convey what she observed of the Yanomami Indians’ spiritual life. She also produced a large number of black-and- white portraits. At the same time, Claudia Andujar invited the Yanomami to represent their shamanic universe through a series of drawings they created, a selection of which is presented in the exhibition.

Maloca near the Catholic mission at the Catrimani River, infrared film, Roraima State, Brazil, 1976. Picture © Claudia Andujar.

The late 1970s marked a turning point in her photographic career. The opening of the Trans- Amazonian highway in southern Yanomami territory resulted in the spread of epidemics that decimated entire communities. At that point, Claudia Andujar decided to devote herself entirely to the struggle for the defense of Yanomami rights and the protection of their forest. Her activism took precedence over her artistic work and photography became a secondary preoccupation, the vocation of which was to support the Yanomami cause. At this time, Claudia Andujar executed a number of identity photographs, taken during a vaccination campaign. These photographs would later give rise to one of her most famous series: Marcados [Marked] comprising black-and- white portraits of Yanomami Indians wearing a numbered label around their neck.

In 1992, thanks to the tireless combat led by Claudia Andujar, missionary Carlo Zacquini, anthropologist Bruce Albert, and shaman and Indian spokesperson Davi Kopenawa, the Brazilian government agreed to legally recognize Yanomami lands, which has played an essential role in the physical and cultural survival of this people. This entire territory, also protected since the eve of the United Nations General Conference on the Environment held in Rio the same year, is today threatened by the massive influx of gold-miners and by the deforestation caused by mass farming.