: Sebastião Salgado calls for protection of indigenous people during the pandemic

Sebastião Salgado calls for protection of indigenous people during the pandemic

Tue April 28th, 2020

One of the greatest photographers of today sends a letter to Bolsonaro stating that the Covid-19 epidemic may represent the genocide of several ethnic groups in Brazil. Opening photo: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

Photojournalist Sebastião Salgado, a Brazilian known throughout the world for his dramatic black and white pictures, sent a letter to the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, and congressmen and senators demanding urgent action to protect the indigenous during the new coronavirus pandemic.

Based in Paris, where he is carrying out social isolation measures, he granted an interview on Monday night to the program Roda Viva, of TV Cultura of São Paulo. During the interview, he explained that his action seeks to alert the authorities about the “very great risk of genocide,” that is, the extermination of entire ethnic groups.

Gustavo Faleiros, the publisher of InfoAmazonia, participated in the Roda Viva as one of the interviewers.

“These indigenous peoples are part of the extraordinary history of our species. Their disappearance would be a great tragedy for Brazil and an immense loss for humanity. There is no time to lose,” says the letter, to which the photographer adds several signatures from Brazilian personalities and organizations.

Dedication to the Amazon

The main focus of Sebastião Salgado’s concerns are the isolated indigenous people in the Amazon. He is aware of the fact, as in the past, that the lack of defenses to the diseases may represent the rapid disappearance of these groups.

The main threat, he pointed out, is the “weakening of the filter” of protection for indigenous territories, which suffer from invasion by illegal mining and growing harassment of land thieves. He highlighted as one of the most serious cases the massive invasion of cat-miners in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory in Roraima, which he classified as “barbarism”.

In his opinion, the response given by the Bolsonaro government to the fires – the Army’s activation to fight the hotspots – proves that there is room for successful action. “It doesn’t matter if he’ll listen. This is a letter to the Presidency of the Republic, a Brazilian institution. And I believe in Brazilian institutions,” he said during the Roda Viva program.

Salgado’s knowledge of the Amazon is due to the incursions made in the past seven years to prepare his next book and exhibition. The photographer has spent seasons with twelve indigenous ethnic groups, some of recent contact, such as the Korubo, in the Javari Valley, state of Amazonas. The first essays of this new work have been published in Folha de S. Paulo, with texts by journalist Leão Serva.

His new book, which should be called only “Amazônia”, as revealed in this Monday, will gather both more recent photos and old collections. In 1986, for example, Salgado generated one of the most admired works in documentary photography: the essay of workers at the Serra Pelada mine in the state of Pará.

From April 2021, a large exhibition of his photos will be launched in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Paris and Rome. The works, he tells, will be exhibited together with musical pieces composed by Heitor Villa Lobos for the Amazon. There are also songs commissioned from the São Paulo group Pau Brasil and the French composer Jean Michel Jarre. “I am sure millions of people will watch and see the importance of the Amazon for the survival of humanity,” he said during the Roda Viva.

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