What do YOU consider « offensive »? – updated

«  The gold miners dig everywhere like wild pigs. The forest’s rivers will soon be no more than miry backwaters, full of mud, motor oil, and trash.  They also wash their gold powder in the streams, mixing it with mercury. All these dirty and dangerous things make the waters sick and the fish’s flesh soft and rotten.  After the gold prospectors arrived the forest had become bad and was filled with xawara epidemic fumes. Since the gold miners arrived among us most of our fathers and grandfathers were devoured by their diseases. »  – Yanomami spokesman and shaman Davi Kopenawa

What is my personal point of view regarding « obscenity »? 

I’ve had occasional problems, over many years, with photos of Yanomami living traditionally in the rainforest that I posted on Facebook. Due to censorship concerning their « community standards ». Facebook removes the « offending » photos and I’ve been sanctioned by having my ability to respond or post blocked for from one to three days… 

This just happened again and the sanction this time was 30 days.

The photo below of a Yanomami woman and her child is considered « offensive » so I subsequently hid areas of their anatomy in order to conform to Facebook « community standards ». 

Yanomami woman and child, Amazonas, Venezuela – cropped to avoid censorship

But Facebook is not alone in censoring traditional communities’ way of living. My film of instants of daily life of a Yanomami community in the Amazon Rainforest of Venezuela that’s been on Youtube since 2014 is now, since 2020, limited to viewers over 18 because of: « Age-restricted video (based on Community Guidelines) » 

What I personally find offensive is the photo below – the forest ravaged and poisoned by gold mining in indigenous territories. The destruction of forests, contamination of rivers, fish and people by mercury as well as cyanide is utterly obscene.

Gold mining site in the rainforest

Another photo that I find profoundly obscene is this photo of children in a gold mining site, working and wading in mercury-laden water. Most of the workers in the illegal gold mines outside the Arco Minero del Orinoco in Venezuela live in makeshift shelters with plastic tarps and wooden planks around the gold mines. There are an estimated 300,000 gold miners and 45% are children!  The damage to their health from mercury poisoning is irreversible.

Young children panning for gold in Venezuela

Another abysmally obscene photo was taken from space revealing what appear to be « rivers of gold » in the Madre de Dios region of Peru but actually shows contaminated rivers and gold mining damage to the rainforest biosphere. Though they look like pools of pure gold; they’re actually pits of toxic mud from gold mining sites! The Madre de Dios gold rush is destroying huge swathes of forest in one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, leaving a barren, lunar landscape strewn with craters filled with stagnant water and rivers poisoned with mercury…

Gold mining destruction of the Madre de Dios region of Peru viewed from space – photo: NASA

Gold mining operations around the world use mercury to separate gold from the soil, dumping the waste into nearby rivers, contaminating wildlife, fish and birds, as well as indigenous people and the miners themselves, including tens of thousands of child workers. There are estimations of 1,200 girls between 12 and 17 forcibly prostituted to the miners in Peru’s Madre de Dios region alone. That is my definition of abject obscenity.

THIS fact, too, is obscene: Tens of thousands of rainforest trees must be uprooted, hundreds of tons of soil mined and mixed with dozens of tons of toxic environmental pollutants that contaminate indigenous land and water sources in order to extract 1 1/2 grams of gold per ton of polluted soil for that one special gold ring, item of gold jewelry, gold watch or gold accessory…




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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14 Responses to What do YOU consider « offensive »? – updated

  1. Pingback: What do YOU consider « offensive »? — Barbara Crane Navarro | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

  2. Pingback: What do YOU consider « offensive »? — Barbara Crane Navarro – Tiny Life

  3. Bonnie Rae says:

    Wow, what an eye-opening post. Keep sounding the alarm. We all need to hear it (and these photos too, because we all need to see it)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Brokers Are STILL Selling Stolen Indigenous Land on Facebook TWO WEEKS After the BBC denounced this crime! However, Facebook takes down photos of traditional indigenous people that “violate Community Standards” within HOURS of being posted! |

  5. elcieloyelinfierno says:

    Beautiful your tickets for all that they represent and denounce! Obscenity is the spurious interest in attacking nature and native peoples, trying to make them invisible. Why do they censor you? Because the hegemonic media in the hands of the billionaires of this unequal world, continue to want society to entertain itself with the media, without knowing that it is heading towards its own extinction. A warm greeting.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A big reason that I left Facebook was for their senselessly rigid ideas of obscenity. For me, it was no big loss, but it’s frustrating that you’re deprived of a forum to get such a vital message through, and all because of an absurd policy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the moral support!
      Absurd Facebook policies regarding nudity in ancestral societies that don’t adhere to puritanical standards is the reason I had three Facebook addresses. I still have two left after the 30 day suspension. I contested their decision on one of them and it was shut down…
      The Youtube position restricting my film for children is bizarre. I showed it in schools for decades while discussing Yanomami life. It was acclaimed by teachers, parents and young students. My picture books for children from 8 to 12 also have paintings of bare-breasted women and girls, as is their tradition. 1200 copies were purchased for schools in Pennsylvania. They subsequently re-ordered more copies.
      These “social-media” platforms are guided by retrograde notions of what’s “appropriate”.


  7. equipsblog says:

    Things can be sh**y as long as it does not show Ti**y. Sad what is censored and what is not.

    Liked by 1 person

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