Xapiri – Amazonian Photography

For the June Xapiri blog, we would like to look at Amazonian Indigenous Photography. Photography is such an important tool for promoting human rights, raising awareness, documenting change, anthropology study, increasing community confidence and much more. When done correctly and sensitively, it is photographers with their passion and close contact with these tribal groups who are among the strongest activists at the forefront of positive change.

Xapiri work closely with friend and leading photographer, Alice Kohler, who spends most of her time devoted as a volunteer in the Middle Xingu Indian reservation in the Brazilian Amazon. In addition to her stunning photographs, Alice uses her experience to promote sport and also help fight against the abuse of alcohol and drugs. She gathers and records information on these people, their way of life and the surrounding nature. Her greatest love, the land of the indigenous people of the Amazon forest is where her photography records these beautiful unique moments of the peoples humanity.

It is the photos taken by Alice which Xapiri use to illustrate our website and social media channels; Instagram, Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest. There are of course many more photographers who have been fortunate to work with the indigenous people in the Amazon and we have selected our favourites, each illustrated by one photo, leaving you to explore further should you wish: (Please click on the photo or name to learn more)

Alice Kohler – Kayapó Xikrin Girl

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Maureen Bisilliat 
‘Sariryuá, his face beaded with sweat and exhaustion staring from his weary eyes, a veteran warrior undefeated in battle… ‘Javarí, Javarí ayát… Yamurutú Anikê…’
circa.1975 – Xingu National Indigenous Reservation, MT, Brazil.

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Cristina Mittermeier 
‘This image of a young Kayapó girl bathing in the warm waters of the Xingú River in the Brazilian Amazon, is one of my favourite shots not just because she is beautiful, but because her eyes say so much. They speak about a beloved river about to be dammed forever, about the pride of her people in their traditions and their culture, about the fear of a future unknown, and of the innocence that every child deserves to live with. If I could have one wish, it would be to stop the Belo Monte dam. The damage that this megaproject, which begins operations this year, will have on the forest, the river and the people will never be healed.
By the time the construction of the Belo Monte dam is finished, the might Xingú River, which has flown unobstructed on its course to the Amazon River will cease to be. The dam will displace up to 40,000 people, mostly indigenous, and will impact nearly 579 square miles. or twice the size of the city of Toronto, of the Amazon River Basin. The Brazilian government claims that once active in 2015, Belo Monte will provide nearly 60 million Brazilians with clean and affordable energy. With so much to gain and so much at stake, the construction of the Belo Monte continues as protesters rally with the cry: What is the price of development?’

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Sebastião Salgado
The Yanomami: An isolated yet imperiled Amazon tribe. The Indian group has official protection, but its large reserve in Brazil is coveted by mining companies and large farming enterprises with political clout. In this photo, men return to the communal dwelling after having adorned and painted their bodies for a ceremony.

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Claudia Andujar
A Yanomami shaman. The spirit world is a fundamental part of Yanomami life. Every creature, rock, tree and mountain has a spirit. Sometimes these are malevolent, attack the Yanomami and are believed to cause illness. Shamans control these spirits by inhaling a hallucinogenic snuff called yakoana.

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A Reading Suggestion:

Maureen Bisilliat – Xingu – Tribal Territory

A stunning book which words can do little justice to the emotive photos within, in turn, we just take a snippet from the author’s note:

‘My aim was to trace the patterns of their delicately perceptive existence. I wished, in some unspecified manner, to make known the vigour of these tribal societies that continue to believe in a way of life based on tradition and, by dint f their very frailty, resist the onslaughts of the ‘civilised’ world. After five years I called a halt – or is it only an intermission? – rather than fall prey to the saturation that inevitably results from over-familiarity with a given subject. In consequence, much is missing which felt, heard and even seen but which, being elusive, escaped my eye. What is left tells, or so I should like to believe, of the dignity of a people who are hospitable yet imperturbable in their life’s rhythm; harmonious, humorous and perceptive in the extreme; untrammelled by the gruelling ambitions of modern society yet perfectionists who, attentive to every detail, wed form to function within the quiet confines of their daily existence. They are expert statesmen, alive to the subtle balance of human relationships and moving within a society where order is unimpeded, stemming as it does from the inner wisdom on mutual respect.’

Until next time, hugs,


Author: Xapiri

Xapiri supports Amazonian indigenous culture by unifying ethical art, emotive photography and unbiased news. The vision is to increase awareness and inspire positive change.

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