The Value of the Gold they covet so much

Yanomami boy with pet monkey, Alto Orinoco, Amazonas, Venezuela 
photo – Barbara Crane Navarro

As the Yanomami spokesman Davi Kopenawa says in his book “The Falling Sky”:  “When a human being dies, his ghost does not carry any of his goods onto the sky’s back, even if he is very greedy. The things he made or acquired are left on earth and only torment the living by rekindling the longing for his presence.

We are different from the white people and our thought is other. Among them, when a father dies, his children are happy to tell each other: ‘We are going to share his merchandise and his money and keep them for ourselves!’

Our real goods are the things of the forest: its waters, fish, game, trees and fruit. Not merchandise! This is why as soon as someone dies we make all the objects he kept disappear.  We grind up his bead necklaces; we burn his hammock, his arrows, his quiver, his gourds, and his feather ornaments.

The stones, waters, earth, mountains, sky and sun are immortal like the xapiri spirits. These are things that … we call parimi, eternal. Humans’ breath of life is very short. We live a short time.

The white people already have more than enough metal to make their merchandise and their machines; land to plant their food; cloth to cover themselves; cars and airplanes to move in. Yet now they covet the metal of our forest to make even more of these things though their factories’ foul breath is already spreading everywhere. … Later, after my death and that of the other shamans, its darkness may descend to our houses so that the children of our children will stop seeing the sun.” 

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 Value of the Gold they covet so much

  1. Pingback: The Value of the Gold they covet so much — Barbara Crane Navarro – Tiny Life

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