Brazil: the forest at the crossroads of art and struggle

The Brazilian government is muzzling the fight against illegal logging, intensive farming and illegal mining in the country, destroying the Amazon forest while its inhabitants are already struggling against the pressures of global warming. The artists of Brazil – from the Amerindians tribes to those from Brazilians cities – are building a strong dynamic to protect forests and alert people to what’s happening.

The late Polish artist Frans Krajcberg, survivor of the Shoah and immigrant to Brazil, was one of the first to sculpt the destruction of the Amazon rainforest by fires set by man (his commitment continues via the Espace Frans Krajcberg in Paris).

Since the 1980s, Brazilian visual artist Maria Thereza Alves has mixed art and activism, in favor of ecology and the Amerindian peoples. Her numerous projects have included “To See The Forest Standing”, dedicated to promoting agroforestry to revive lands that have been heavily deforested.

The messages of the Amerindians are gradually gaining an audience in the field of art. The exhibition “Véxoa: Nós sabemos” (Véxoa: We know) at the São Paulo Pinacoteca, ending this month, features 23 artists from indigenous tribes in Brazil. This is the first time this reference museum has dedicated an entire exhibition to indigenous artists. Ailton Krenak, flagship artist of the exhibition and leader of the struggle of the peoples of the Forest in Brazil, advocates activist art, aimed at denouncing the ravages of agribusiness and global warming.

Credits: Jaider Esbell, Árvore de todos os saberes, 2013, São Paulo Pinacoteca / Debbie Symons, Labverde Residency, 2018

The Amazon and its challenges are at the heart of the creation of a new Biennale, AMA-ZONIA, conceived as an international event that will bring together national and international art galleries, and will be a place of technical and scientific exchange. The first edition in 2021 aims to raise awareness of the importance of the Amazon rainforest through art. The projects will attempt to draw attention to the richness and biodiversity of this environment.

Artistic explorations of the forest combine ecological, social, scientific and political dimensions, and particular thanks must go to “LABVERDE: Art Immersion Program in the Amazon”. Born from the fundamental question: “How can culture help develop environmental justice for the Amazon?”, this art / nature / science project organizes yearly immersions in the Amazon rainforest for artists. Lucy+Jorge Orta, beneficiaries of this program, have thus enriched their Amazonia series which started in 2008.

In addition to Amerindian artists, Brazilian artists such as Roberto Burle Marx, Vik Muniz and Oskar Metsavaht, are mobilizing to raise awareness of the Amazon rainforest, and support associative and local projects. Additionally photographer Sebastião Salgado and his wife, the environmentalist Lélia Wanick Salgado, founded the Terra Institute in the Rio Doce valley in Brazil. Their challenge: to revive the once verdant Mata Atlântica, the other large Brazilian rainforest, lesser known than the Amazon – by planting 750 hectares of trees in order to raise awareness among local stakeholders about environmental protection. Salgado will unveil his new photographs of the Brazilian Amazon at the Philharmonie de Paris (April 7 to August 22, 2021).


Pauline Lisowski and Alice Audouin



Espace Frans Krajcberg

Véxoa: Nós sabemos, São Paulo Pinacoteca, Brazil, October 31, 2019 – March 22, 2021

Biennale AMA-ZONIA

LABVERDE: Art Immersion Program in the Amazon

Salgado Amazonia, exhibition by Sebastião Salgado, Philharmonie de Paris, April 7 – August 22, 2021

And also:

Books by Ailton Krenak: Idées pour retarder la fin du monde (Éditions Dehors, 2020), recently released in portuguese: La vie n’est pas utile et Notre lendemain n’est pas en vente (2020)


March 2021

Credits: Archipel fluvial by Mariua, Rio Negro ©Sebastiao Salgado / Maria Thereza Alves, To See The Forest Standing, installation view art Serpentine Galleries, courtesy of the artist

Find the Impact Art News n°28 – March 2021

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