Night of Uncertainty

The Night of the Yanomami

Location: Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, View access map

This Night of Uncertainty is over

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With Claudia Andujar (photographer), Davi Kopenawa (shaman and spokesperson for the Yanomami, one of the largest Amerindian tribes in the Brazilian Amazon) and Dario Kopenawa (vice-president of the association Hutukara Yanomami and spokesperson for the Yanomami).
A discussion moderated by Thyago Nogueira (director of the Contemporary Photography Department at the Instituto Moreira Salles [Brazil] and curator of this exhibition), in the presence of Bruce Albert (anthropologist) and Carlo Zacquini (missionary), fellow fighters of Claudia Andujar and Davi Kopenawa.

For the opening of the exhibition Claudia Andujar, The Yanomami Struggle, the Fondation Cartier is pleased to announce the exceptional presence of Davi Kopenawa, shaman and spokesperson for the Yanomami of Brazil, alongside Claudia Andujar, for a special evening devoted to the defense of the Amerindian indigenous communities of the Amazon, who are under grave threat today.

Davi Kopenawa* along with Raoni Metuktire, is currently one of the most important advocates of the Amazon and the communities living there. Born in northern Brazil, in Amazonas State, he now lives in the community of Watorikɨ. Between 1987 and 1990, almost 20% of the Yanomami population perished in Brazil because of violence and the illnesses that accompanied the invasion of their lands by 40,000 gold miners. Deeply affected by this tragedy, Davi Kopenawa embarked on a tireless struggle to defend the rights of his people.

Since the 1970s, Brazilian photographer Claudia Andujar has devoted her photography and her life to the defense of the Yanomami Indians. When she first met them, the Yanomami were already under threat of physical and cultural extinction due to the development of the Amazon region by the Brazilian military dictatorship in power at the time. The region had begun to open up with the construction of the Trans-Amazonian Highway and agricultural colonization projects, which resulted in the spread of epidemics and led to the decimation of entire communities. In 1978, Claudia Andujar founded, along with her socio-politically conscious friends, anthropologist Bruce Albert and missionary Carlo Zacquini, an NGO known as Comissão Pro-Yanomami (CCPY) whose aim was to legalize and protect Yanomami territory. Claudia Andujar and Davi Kopenawa traveled the world together in search of international support. In 1992, Davi Kopenawa and the CCPY obtained legal recognition of an area of 96,650 km2 of tropical rainforest reserved for the exclusive use of the Yanomami and guaranteed by presidential decree. However, this territory is once again seriously under threat by a massive influx of gold miners, this time with the direct support of the Brazilian government.

For 15 years, following his father's footsteps, Dario Kopenawa has been fighting and denouncing mining on Yanomami territory, working in the fields of health and education of his people. A major player in a new generation of Yanomami who are continuing the fight, he reflects the Yanomami struggles to come.

The Night of the Yanomami is devoted to them.

“You came to visit us. I gave you these words (…). Now, share them with the people from your country. Show them our images and those of the forest. Let them hear the calls of the animals and the songs of the spirits. Let them say: ‘Goodness! The forest is beautiful. Long may the Yanomami continue to live there and protect it from the threat of White People!’ You hear that your neighbors want to invade and destroy it, speak to your elders and to those of Brazil. Tell them with feeling: ‘We know the Yanomami. We have slept in their houses and eaten their food. They are our friends. We want them to be able to live in the forest as they want.’ This is the reason why we have given you our images and our words. It is for this.” (Quotation taken from the exhibition catalogue Yanomami, Spirit of the Forest, publ. Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, 2003

*Among the numerous prizes given to him in Brazil and overseas, including the United Nations Global 500 Award for his commitment to the environment (1988), on December 4, 2019, Davi Kopenawa was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, considered an “alternative Nobel Prize”.

In 2003, Davi Kopenawa was, along with anthropologist Bruce Albert, the inspiration for the exhibition Yanomami, Spirit of the Forest at the Fondation Cartier. This exhibition presented the work of both Western and Yanomami artists in the form of a visual dialogue on shamanic practices in the Amazon rainforest. In 2019, the drawings of several Yanomami artists were also shown as part of the exhibition Trees.

Davi Kopenawa is the co-author with Bruce Albert of the book The Falling Sky. Words of a Yanomami Shaman (first published in French by Plon in 2010 and later in English and other languages), a biography that retraces both his initiation into shamanic life and his political struggle.

Credits: © Carlo Zacquini / © Raymond Depardon