The Blinding Sorcery of Gold

photo: Yanomami shaman, Amazonas, Venezuela – Barbara Crane Navarro

As the Yanomami spokesman Davi Kopenawa says in his book “The Falling Sky”: “To our elders, gold was just shiny flakes on the sand of the forest’s stream beds, like mica. They collected it to make a sorcery substance intended to blind people with whom they were angry. … this metal dust was highly feared. This is why we call the shards of shiny metal that the gold miners extract from the riverbeds oru hipëre a – the blinding sorcery of gold.                       When the white people tear minerals out of the ground, they grind them up with their machines, then heat them in their factories.… Gold and other minerals are dangerous evil things that only bring disease and death. … Though this metal may be the most beautiful and most solid they can find to build their machines and their merchandise, it is dangerous for human beings. By digging so far underground, the white people do not think about such things. If they did, they would not unceasingly tear everything they can out of the earth. I want to make them hear the words the xapiri gave me in the time of dream so these thoughtless outsiders can understand what is really happening.

Yanomami shamans do not work for money the way white people’s doctors do. They simply work so that the sky and forest remain in place, so that we can hunt, plant our gardens, and live in good health. Our ancients did not know of money. … Money does not protect us … it does not create our joy. For white people, it is different. They do not know how to dream with the spirits the way we do. They prefer to ignore that the shamans’ work is to protect the earth, as much for us and our children as for them and theirs.”

About Barbara Crane Navarro - Rainforest Art Project

I'm a French artist living near Paris. From 1968 to 1973 I studied at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, then at the San Francisco Art Institute in San Francisco, California, for my BFA. My work for many decades has been informed and inspired by time spent with indigenous communities. Various study trips devoted to the exploration of techniques and natural pigments took me originally to the Dogon of Mali, West Africa, and subsequently to Yanomami communities in Venezuela and Brazil. Over many years, during the winters, I studied the techniques of traditional Bogolan painting. Hand woven fabric is dyed with boiled bark from the Wolo tree or crushed leaves from other trees, then painted with mud from the Niger river which oxidizes in contact with the dye. Through the Dogon and the Yanomami, my interest in the multiplicity of techniques and supports for aesthetic expression influenced my artistic practice. The voyages to the Amazon Rainforest have informed several series of paintings created while living among the Yanomami. The support used is roughly woven canvas prepared with acrylic medium then textured with a mixture of sand from the river bank and lava. This supple canvas is then rolled and transported on expeditions into the forest. They are then painted using a mixture of acrylic colors and Achiote and Genipap, the vegetal pigments used by the Yanomami for their ritual body paintings and on practical and shamanic implements. My concern for the ongoing devastation of the Amazon Rainforest has inspired my films and installation projects. Since 2005, I've created a perfomance and film project - Fire Sculpture - to bring urgent attention to Rainforest issues. To protest against the continuing destruction, I've publicly set fire to my totemic sculptures. These burning sculptures symbolize the degradation of nature and the annihilation of indigenous cultures that depend on the forest for their survival.
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2 Responses to The Blinding Sorcery of Gold

  1. Pingback: The Blinding Sorcery of Gold — Barbara Crane Navarro – Tiny Life

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