Art and Activism in the Amazon ~ ‘The Yanomami Struggle’ at The Shed




Claudia Andujar, [A guest decorated with vulture and hawk down feathers at a feast, Catrimani], 1974. Gelatin silver print. 26.4 x 39.8 inches (67 x 101 cm). Artwork © Claudia Andujar. Collection of the artist.
The Yanomami Struggle is a comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the collaboration and friendship between artist and activist Claudia Andujar and the Yanomami people, one of the largest Indigenous groups living in Amazonia today.

Following acclaimed presentations at the Instituto Moreira Salles (São Paulo), the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain (Paris), and the Barbican Centre (London), among other venues, the exhibition is expanded at The Shed to include more than 80 drawings and paintings by Yanomami artists André Taniki, Ehuana Yaira, Joseca Mokahesi, Orlando Nakɨ uxima, Poraco Hɨko, Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe, and Vital Warasi. Visitors will also encounter new video works by contemporary Yanomami filmmakers Aida Harika, Edmar Tokorino, Morzaniel Ɨramari, and Roseane Yariana.

André Taniki, [Visions from the world of the xapiri, with its houses, mirrors, and paths], 1978–81. Felt pen on paper. 8.3 x 11.4 inches (21 x 29 cm). Artwork © André Taniki. Collection Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain.
These works are presented alongside more than 200 photographs by Claudia Andujar that trace the artist’s experiences with the Yanomami over five decades and continue to raise visibility for their struggle to protect their land, people, and culture. The dialogue established between the contemporary Yanomami artists’ work and Andujar’s photographs offers an unprecedented vision of Yanomami culture, society, and visual art. The works by these contemporary Yanomami artists are on view in New York for the first time at The Shed, bringing together the most extensive presentation of Yanomami art in the US to date.

Claudia Andujar was born in Switzerland in 1931 and raised in Transylvania before immigrating to New York City in 1946 after escaping the Holocaust. She first moved to Brazil in 1955, where she started a career as a photographer. For over five decades, Andujar has been collaborating with the Yanomami people in defense of their rights. The Yanomami Struggle tells the story of Andujar’s relationship with the Yanomami people during Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964 – 85), from their first encounter in 1971 to the transformation of her artistic practice into direct activism seven years later, when Andujar and other activists created the Commission for the Demarcation of the Yanomami Park (CCPY). Through the voice and guidance of shaman and leader Davi Kopenawa, the exhibition also narrates the Yanomami’s mythological origins and maps their cosmovision, politics, and social organization.

Davi Kopenawa, [“The house of the xapiri is suspended from the sky as is the moon. At the bottom, the xapiri guardians. At the top, two xapiri monkeys watch for the enemies and the xawara epidemic fumes to warn the xapiri who are resting in their hammocks”], 2003. Felt pen on paper. 11.7 x 8.3 inches (29.7 x 21 cm). Artwork © Davi Kopenawa. Collection Bruce Albert.
Kopenawa’s friendship with Andujar since the 1980s is central to her ongoing relationship with the Yanomami. Alongside many other activists and organizations, they have worked with Yanomami communities and leaders against the invasion of Yanomami land, a fight that led to the demarcation of a continuous Yanomami territory by the Brazilian government in 1992. The protection of the land was followed by important health and educational programs and the creation of different Yanomami associations. Despite this progress, the activism depicted in the exhibition is not relegated to the past. The invasion of their territory by illegal gold miners continues today, threatening both the Amazonian rainforest and the Yanomami.

Since the 2000s, a new generation of Yanomami artists have begun producing and showcasing their work outside of the region, establishing a new perspective that is now incorporated into the exhibition. This multilayered story also includes the contributions of several other individuals and organizations, including Hutukara Associação Yanomami, Instituto Socioambiental, anthropologist Bruce Albert (Fondation Cartier’s consultant and co-author with shaman Davi Kopenawa of The Falling Sky), and Italian missionary Carlo Zacquini.

The Yanomami Struggle will be on view from February 3 to April 16, 2023 at The Shed, 545 West 30th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues in the Level 2 Gallery.

Please note: Face masks are optional but strongly encouraged while in The Shed. This policy is subject to change. Please email or call (646) 455-3494 if you have questions.

Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe, Hiputu [blind snake], 2020. Acrylic on sugar cane fiber paper. Artwork © Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe. Collection Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain.
In conjunction with the exhibition The Yanomami Struggle on view starting February 3, Indigenous Rights, Art, and Environmental Justiceis a three-day series of free Saturday events that offers a platform for Yanomami and Indigenous voices, and explore the contexts and themes of the exhibition. Panel conversations and events will feature Yanomami and other Indigenous artists and community-builders, including academics, policy-makers, and representatives of community organizations. Find Tickets and more information Here.

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While you’re there, take a walk through Bella Abzug Park and view the art installation “Shadows” by artist Fanny Allié; take a walk on the largest Green Roof in New York City right next door at The Javits Center; check out the artwork in the Hudson Yards #7 subway station ~ The Shed and The Vessel ~ and the High Line.