‘The Yanomami Struggle’: piercing New York show sheds light on an Amazonian community under critical threat

Now on view at The Shed in New York, ‘The Yanomami Struggle’ is a poignant exhibition dedicated to the friendship between artist and activist Claudia Andujar and the Yanomami people, and their collective fight against invasion

The Yanomami Struggle at The Shed
Installation view of 'The Yanomami Struggle' at The Shed New York
(Image credit: Adam Reich, courtesy of the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain)

The Swiss-born, Brazil-based photographer, activist and Holocaust survivor Claudia Andujar began documenting the lives of the Yanomami people back in the 1970s. 

Since then, she has dedicated her life's work to raising awareness and educating the world about the territorial struggle of the Yanomami people, one of the largest Indigenous groups living in Amazonia today. 

‘The Yanomami Struggle’ presented in collaboration with Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS) is now being staged at The Shed in New York, supported by Fondation Cartier.

‘The Yanomami Struggle’ at The Shed, New York

The Yanomami Stuggle at The Shed New York

Installation view of 'The Yanomami Struggle' at The Shed New York 

(Image credit: Adam Reich, courtesy of the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain)

Alex Poots, artistic director of The Shed, and Hervé Chandès, artistic managing director of the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain partnered to bring the much-applauded ‘The Yanomami Struggle’ to Manhattan, following a tour at several prestigious European institutions as well as at IMS (São Paulo), the Fondation Cartier (Paris), and the Barbican Centre (London). 

Curated by Thyago Nogueira, head of contemporary photography at IMS São Paulo, the show includes over 80 drawings, paintings and video works by Yanomami artists, among them André Taniki, Ehuana Yaira, Joseca Mokahesi, Aida Harika, Edmar Tokorino as well as shaman Davi Kopenawa, who has been recognised by the UN in its Global 500 honours, alongside more than 200 of Andujar’s photographs, which together offer insight into the culture and art practices of the people. 

Claudia Andujar The Yanomami Stuggle

Claudia Andujar, Catrimani region, 1972-76

(Image credit: © Claudia Andujar. Collection of the artist.)

Offering the most extensive presentation of Yanomami art in the US to date, the exhibition documents the continued battle of the Yanomami people and the continuing invasion of their lands by tens of thousands of illegal gold miners, which threatens both the Amazon rainforest and the Yanomami community. ‘At a time when Amazonia is threatened once again by unbridled development, deforestation, and illegal mining, this exhibition presents a multilayered narrative of violence and resistance. It also uses art as a platform to amplify the Yanomami voices and expose our responsibilities in the humanitarian and environmental crisis threatening Indigenous societies worldwide,’ says Nogueira. 

Artist Ehuana Yaira explains, ‘I’m working in the same spirit that Claudia Andujar worked in several years ago when our land [and] our people were suffering from the invasion of illegal gold miners. We’re suffering on our land. People are destroying our land. So I thought, “If I show how we are, how my people live, you white people will think about protecting us, about watching what is happening to us.” I’m afraid that my daughters and granddaughters will suffer as well. Because of that, I want to share my paintings and my drawings so that you will think about protecting us.’

Claudia Andujar The Yanomami Struggle The Shed

Installation view of 'The Yanomami Struggle' at The Shed New York

(Image credit: Image by Adam Reich, courtesy of the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain)

Fondation Cartier is a long-time supporter of the Yanomami artists. ‘The story began in 2000; Claudia Andujar introduced me in Paris to Bruce Albert, co-author with Davi Kopenawa of The Falling Sky book,’ says Chandès. Later that year, Chandès travelled to the Amazon rainforest with Albert, and so began the journey towards the first exhibition ‘The Yanomami, Spirit of the Forest’ (Paris, 2003) –  ‘a pioneering project that paved the way to Fondation Cartier’s numerous exhibitions in the field of Indigenous art and the living worlds,’ says Chandès.

'The Yanomami Struggle', is on view at The Shed, New York, until 16 April 2023. theshed.org

Tilly is a British writer, editor and digital consultant based in New York, covering luxury fashion, jewellery, design, culture, art, travel, wellness and more. An alumna of Central Saint Martins, she is Contributing Editor for Wallpaper* and has interviewed a cross section of design legends including Sir David Adjaye, Samuel Ross, Pamela Shamshiri and Piet Oudolf for the magazine.