IMS Paulista is that place, and I have been visiting it frequently now that I am based in São Paulo Brazil. Located on the famous Paulista stretch in the always something happening part of the city is where this place can be found. And even more fortuitous has been that the current exposition up now is a truly fascinating one full of amazing black and white silver prints along side some classic infrared color images of the Amazon.
The show, A Luta Yanomami (The Yanomami Struggle) by photographer Clauida Andujar, is displayed on two floors showcasing the artists work in the 70's and 80's when she was working on projects documenting the tribe for magazines working with health advocates and missionaries to gain access. The images are some of the only ones I have seen from that time period and today that seem to be taken with the tribe and not of them. Claudia talks about her work throughout the show on panels besides the images, about gaining trust slowly, and being invited to witness hunts and ceremonial dances, and one of the more interesting stories is about the time when she contacted Malaria and had to spend a year back in her São Paulo apartment. However, she took the time to learn more about the Yanomami culture and experiment with low light situations where she could test out exposure and developing techniques before returning to work with the tribe many more times.
Her work is being shown at a time when indigenous peoples all around the world are fighting to preserve their lands and keep their traditions and languages alive. Even here in Brazil with the well known indigenous rights government agency FUNAI set up to protect the tribes, there is new political and populist agricultural interests cutting away at the power of FUNAI and its ability to protect the tribes. The biggest threat to their sovereignty is the approach of armed 'wildcat' loggers looking to lop off the lands inside the reserves to sell to farmers. In this Reuters article you see some powerful images and can read a recent report about a recent standoff inside of a tribal reserve that had armed warriors with their poison tipped arrows pointed at armed intruders. The intruders left, but have vowed to return, and under the ascent of President Bolsanaro and his remarks, rural peoples have become emboldened to strike deeper into the reserves seeking to exploit the natural resources there.
The fight to maintain indigenous lands and the people who have cared for them in a symbiotic way for thousands of years is ongoing, but necessary. As I once heard my favorite film maker Werner Herzog remark, that so many people speak of the loss of whales and species, but what about the languages, and the cultures that everyday we are loosing?
I took my trusty Nikonos III with us, and some old rolls of film. Just having two rolls of film to capture everything makes you slow down and really focus on what you want to capture and which moments you want to remember.
At Picinguaba the Atlantic rainforest, or Mata Atlantica, comes right down to the beach and that part of the coast is one of the largest pieces of protected forest of this type. All of it part of the vast natural park Serra do Mar, making Picinguaba and the surrounding area a biodiversity hotspot. Every morning we watched the many colorful birds from our balcony at the Pousada Picinguaba. The Pousada was the perfect place to slow down and experience the essence of the place. A large colonial style home converted into a boutique hotel it is surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and trees and situated atop a steep hill holding a commanding view of the bay below. Furthermore, there are many great beaches nearby and the colonial town of Paraty just a short drive up the coast into Rio de Janiero state. We really enjoyed the peaceful vibe and we hope to make it up there again at least a few more times to enjoy the beaches and explore the forest a bit further.
Being in South America allows me to finally visit many places that have lingered in my minds' wild imagination for years. Probably the city most visualized in my head, and most talked about, as well as most well known in this part of the world, is Buenos Aires. Argentina's capital and once all powerful center of the country's domination of the South American economy. Unlike Chile and other South American countries, Argentina was built upon the great wealth of that country in the late 19th and early 20th century, it's Belle Epoque, and its city center retains a grand elegance. Although it lingers under the cloud of the country's deep economic troubles of recent times, the grand city still exhumes a classic beauty and the people retain their elegance and pride. After all those years about hearing about brass Argentinians who look more towards Europe than South America, with a dialect and flair all their own that many seem to take as snobbish, I now have a deeper understanding and respect for the country and its people. They truly do live in a unique place in a unique way, and when one walks around the city one thinks more of Madrid than Santiago.
I had just under a week to roam around the city as well get out to the edge and take a one day excursion by train to Tigre where we took the typical boat along tour along the river and vast delta. The river tour proved extremely valuable in understanding the geography and the water world of Buenos Aires. A city on the mouth of a vast delta emptying into the sea, with Uruguay and Montevideo just a short ferry ride away. Back in the city I knew that I had lots of art to see, being that BA is home to one of the best museums in Latin America, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, or simply MALBA. I made sure to make a full day of visiting the institution and fortunately I hit the museum at a pertinent time for a student of all things Latin America. The main exposition being shown was Latin American Art 1900-1970. The show, still up today, highlights the work of prominent LA artists during a time of monumental works from some of the biggest, such as Rivera, Khalo, Siqueros and many more. On display is also one of Brazil's most treasured works, Abaporu by Tarsila do Amaral, the work of the Brazilian modernist that seems to exemplify a sense of that country in such a powerful and yet understated way. I had wanted to see this one especially, after learning that it is a bit of a thorn in the side of Brazil, the fact that Argentina owns this treasured piece. The show also made clear that the reason for an end to the era of this time in art in Latin America (1970) was marked clearly by the rise of the dictatorships in South America. The same dictatorships that aimed to snuff out any art that even hinted at anything revolutionary or counter to the dominant military culture.
I spent a good deal of the time walking around the city and there are many parks and open spaces that made the place easy to like and move around in. Great large parks are spread about all across parts of the city, at least where I was staying in Recoleta. As well kept and easy as it was to appreciate that part of the city, with all the parks and museums and good restaurants, I couldn't not think about all the news of the declining economy, and I couldn't help but to think of a documentary film I saw in Downtown Los Angeles one night at a non-profits' center whose name I cannot recall at the moment. The film titled, The Take and created by none other than Naomi Klein and her husband, showed how working class Argentinians were loosing their jobs due to government mismanagement, corruption, and globalization, but also how resilient groups of workers were fighting back and bringing to life shuttered factories. A powerful documentary film and a poignant story of a time that seems to drag on for many in that country. An Uber driver told us that his water and electric bills jumped up to 10x of what they were in the past.
A classic city going through some rough modern times, I hope that somehow the Argentinians find a way to regain some of their economic power and that the rest of the world sees to it that these types of things don't continue to happen and make things even more difficult on the working folks.
And in Northern California the destruction is pretty much unspeakable. There are no words that can even describe what happened there, I can only offer condolences to the community of Paradise where dozens of lives were lost and thousands of structures were lost.
The plants will grow back, the animals will find a way to survive, but the people will need a strong community and cooperation among neighbors, politicians, land management agencies, and many more to recover.
The images above demonstrate just some of what was lost.