For the last 50 years, Swiss photographer, Claudia Andujar, has been documenting and advocating for the Yanomami people.
This week she will open a new exhibition at the Cartier Bresson Foundation in Paris (Jan 30) with a curated selection from her vast archive.
The Yanomami live in a remote area of the Amazon rainforest on the border between Brazil and Venezuela.
For decades their existence has been threatened by the encroaching of predatory activities, particularly mining, which has poisoned their water with mercury.
The exhibition is called Claudia Andujar: the Yanomami Struggle and it comprises around 300 photographs from Andujar’s collection.
Throughout the decades, Andujar has amassed a collection of more than 25,000 images that are a living testament to her dedication to documenting the Yanomami culture, in all of its complexity.
The exhibition is divided into two sections that reflect “the dual nature of a career committed to both aesthetics and activism”, the Foundation says on its website.
“The first section presents the photographs from her first seven years living with the Yanomami, showing how she grappled with the challenges of visually interpreting a complex culture. The second features the work she produced during her period of activism, when she began to use her photography as a tool among others for political change,” it adds
Claudia Andujar and the Yanomami
Claudia Andujar moved to Brazil in 1955 and became a photojournalist. She first came in contact with the Yanomami in 1971 during an assignment for Realidade magazine.
She became fascinated with their culture and way of life and managed to get a Guggenheim fellowship to produce a photographic essay on their everyday life and social interactions.
The foundation for her life-long relationship and devotion to these people was launched.
Andujar quickly developed her own experimental style to capture not only the surface of the Yanomami cultural elements but also the spirit of their shamanic culture.
She often applied vaseline on her camera to create distortion, used flash devices, oil lamps and infrared film to capture the otherworldliness of the scenes she recorded on her camera.
“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,” says Claudia.
Andujar is considered a true friend of the Yanomami by their spokesperson Davi Kopenawa due to her activism demanding the demarcation of their land and her artistic work depicting, with great artistry, one of the most singular and fascinating people in the world. Despite all the attacks they have suffered, the Yanomami continue to exist and resist.
Claudia Andujar, The Yanomami Struggle, January 30 – May 10, 2020, Fondation Cartier, Paris.
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