« The Yanomami shamans who fight the xawara epidemic see the disease’s image appear in the form of strips of scarlet fabric. The xawara epidemic is approaching and its smoke is glowing red! It is making the sky become ghost and is devouring all the human beings in its path! It must be driven away! »
- Davi Kopenawa, Yanomami spokesman and shaman
Shamans in the Alto Orinoco region of Amazonas, Venezuela, described oru a wakëxi – the gold smoke – to me in these terms decades before I read Davi’s words. Dreaming in my hammock in the Yanomami collective house, the shabono, I saw the totemic sculpture I would later create when I returned to Paris. In another dream, I saw my sculpture burning. I planned to burn a sculpture publicly in 2003 but didn’t find a site to burn one until 2005. I’ve burned seven since as Performances: www.barbaranavarro.com
Totemic Light Sculptures: « Yanomami shamans struggle against xawara – smoke of epidemics » installation with sounds of Yanomami shaman chanting – mixed media – Film: 1:20 – Barbara Crane Navarro:
These burning sculptures symbolize the degradation of nature and the annihilation of indigenous cultures that depend on the forest for their survival.
In the 1980s, twenty percent of the Yanomami died in only seven years after gold miners invaded their land, ravaging communities from diseases.
Tens of thousands of gold miners supported by heavily armed criminal gangs are now propagating coronavirus and malaria among Yanomami communities in Brazil and Venezuela. The magnitude of the destruction of the forest in Yanomami Indigenous Land that is caused by illegal gold mining and the contamination of soil, rivers and fish by the mercury used to amalgamate gold is causing irreversible brain damage and malnutrition in Yanomami children.
How does Cartier reconcile their gold extraction business model that destroys trees and degrades Indigenous lives with their art exhibitions « We the Trees » and « The Yanomami Struggle » ?
Articles published during the Fondation Cartier’s exhibition « The Yanomami Struggle » (January – September 2020) ignored the fact that the Cartier Foundation « supports » a people, the Yanomami, who are victim of an activity, gold extraction, which precisely enriches the Cartier luxury jewelry company!
The same could be asked of the Cartier Foundation’s precedent exhibition « We the Trees » (July – November 2019). Which trees, exactly, were they referring to when it’s so obviously necessary to uproot the trees and poison the rivers and soil in order to extract gold for Cartier watches, jewelry and accessories?
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 lands for that one special gold ring…
Online, during the closure due to COVID-19, the Cartier Foundation advertised: « These times give us the opportunity to explore subjects we find relevant, such as the environment or the defense of indigenous peoples, and to bring them into focus again … as a tribute to trees, those great protagonists of the living world. » and « During this confinement period, Raymond Depardon and Claudine Nougaret share with us their latest film, ‘My Tree’. Produced for the exhibition ‘We the Trees’ (2019), this film gives a voice to the men and women who are surrounded by them, cherish them, observe them, defend them, care for them, admire them, and who are also a little tired of living with them. »
The Yanomami are not at all tired of living with trees and have petitioned the Brazilian government to force tens of thousands of gold miners, who are destroying the forests and poisoning the rivers, out of the Yanomami Indigenous territory.
Brazil’s Vice President, General Mourao, claimed that he would send help but later stated that removing « 3,500 » illegal gold miners from Yanomami lands, as he had promised, is a « herculean task » – but in reality, 25 thousand gold miners are ravaging Yanomami territory.
Davi Kopenawa denounced inaction by the Bolsonaro government: « We’ve been without protection from the Brazilian state… or assistance for the community. »
Davi Kopenawa, evoked the dangers of « Cannibal Gold » in his book « The Falling Sky » which was transcribed by the anthropologist Bruce Albert and published in 2013, while gold miners brought measles and other diseases to Indigenous peoples but before COVID-19 began contaminating Yanomami communities: ‘The things that whites so eagerly extract from the depths of the earth, ores and oil … are evil and dangerous things, impregnated with coughs and fevers … They already have more than enough goods. Despite this, they continue to dig the soil relentlessly, like giant armadillos. They do not think that, in doing so, they will be as contaminated as we are. They are mistaken. It is not for nothing that whites today want to excavate the floor of our forest. The whites spread their epidemic smokes all over the forest for nothing, without realizing anything, just pulling the gold and other minerals from the land. …They only care about cooking metal and oil to manufacture their goods. …Xawara epidemic thrives where whites manufacture their objects and store them. But whites’ ears don’t hear the words of the spirits! They only pay attention to their own speech and never realize that it is the same epidemic smoke that poisons and devours their own children. Their great men continue to send their sons-in-law and their children to pluck the evil things that spread the diseases from which we all suffer from the darkness of the earth. Thus, the breath of smoke from the burned ores spreads everywhere. What white people call ‘the whole world’ is corrupted by the factories that produce all their goods, their machines and their engines. … Even the trees get sick. Becoming ghosts, they lose their leaves, they dry out and break on their own. Fish also die from the same cause, in the dirty water of rivers. With the smoke from ores, oil, bombs and atomic things, whites will make the earth and the sky sick. »
The online ad for the Cartier Foundation continued: « To lift our mood in these times of confinement, Bernie Krause wishes to share with the Cartier Fondation’s audience a unique 60-minute sound immersion into the Amazon. Echoing ‘The Yanomami Struggle’ he brings us to the heart of the forest, in a natural habitat similar to Yanomami territories, in which a very close attention to natural sounds, animal vocalisations in particular, is an essential component of the Yanomami way of life. As with many of Bernie Krause’s recordings, this soundscape and its bio-phony recorded in 1990 can no longer be heard today, for this natural habitat has since then been heavily compromised by intense logging and mining. »
Cartier jewelry, watches and accessories are not for sale at the Cartier Foundation, but the Foundation was created with funds from the sale of luxury jewelry items and is underwritten by the Cartier company to the tune of around five million euros yearly according to the Cartier Foundation’s General Director Hervé Chandès. In an interview by Caroline Lebrun https://www.paris-art.com/herve-chandes-fondation-cartier/ Chandès states that: « The Cartier Foundation is private, entirely funded by Cartier for its communications. »
I had been under the impression that the Cartier Foundation was a sort of museum, but communications for Cartier? Doesn’t that sound more like publicity than art? Would that infer that art is just a vehicle to sell more luxury products by giving them an aura of culture? So, according to the Cartier Foundation, are the Yanomami and Trees: ART ? – THEATER ? – FOLKLORE ?…or the very definition of GREENWASHING ? !
As much as 75% of the gold extracted each year is used for jewelry, watches and other vain and futile status symbols sold by Cartier and other corporations in the luxury or discount gold industry worldwide.
Studies have shown that gold mining asphyxiates the biosphere, preventing trees and plants from growing back in areas that were excavated for mining pits. Recovery rates for trees in the Amazon rainforest are very low and the disturbingly high levels of mercury due to gold mining are destroying the forest beyond any hope of recovery.
During the COVID-19 confinement in France, the Cartier Foundation stated: « During confinement, the Cartier Foundation’s garden was able to take a rest and flourish out of sight. New measures are being put in place to preserve all of its beauty and its fragile ecosystem. »
The same consideration was not given to the Amazon rainforest’s fragile ecosystem during the pandemic, however. Gold mining in the Amazon rainforest has attained « epidemic » proportions, especially in Indigenous territories.
An increase in the price of gold has ignited a gold rush, with hundreds of thousands of illegal miners pouring into Yanomami lands and other Indigenous territories in the hope of striking it rich.
Worldwide, illegal gold mining is more lucrative for criminal organizations, drug cartels and mafias than drug trafficking.
Gold is the perfect medium for laundering illicit money from other illegal activities since illegal gold looks exactly like legal gold and the proceeds from selling it can be placed in the bank.
Brazil’s largest criminal gang, the First Command of the Capital (PCC), is known to operate in Yanomami territory in Roraima, a region along their gold and drug trafficking routes. These outlaws have been instigating violence against the Yanomami with the use of automatic weapons and tear gas bombs and intimidating them since May 2021!
On May 10th, as the community of Palimiú panicked during an attack by illegal gold miners, two very young Yanomami children drowned.
More recently, two Yanomami children drowned when they were sucked underwater by an illegal gold dredge operating on the river near their home.
The illustrated « Young Audience GUIDE » for the Cartier Foundation’s « We the Trees » exhibition is available online and describes in detail the 24 types of healthy trees in the Cartier Foundation’s garden created in 1994 by artist Lothar Baumgarten, the « Theatrum Botanicum » (‘Theatre of Plants’). « With 200 wild and natural plant species, mostly indigenous, positioned around the majestic cedar of Lebanon planted by Chateaubriand in 1823. »
The « Young Audience GUIDE » continues with the following information for children and their parents: « DEFORESTATION: In many cultures, the forest is considered a whole person, a spirit, a deity. She is celebrated and thanked for everything she offers (air, food, habitat, medicine, etc.). Today, its balance is threatened: some people seem to have forgotten that our survival depends on the well-being of trees. Understanding that we are all members of the same community, that of the ‘living’, should invite us to reflect on our actions and act more responsibly. »
A version of Cartier’s « The Yanomami Struggle » exhibition took place at the Triennale di Milano October 2020 – February 2021 as the beginning of a collaboration that will continue for 8 years.
Currently, the Cartier Foundation is presenting a version of their 2019 exhibition « We the Trees » as « Trees » at The Power Station of Art, China’s first state-run contemporary art museum through October 10th, 2021.
Cartier’s show at the Power Station of Art was orchestrated, according to Cartier’s publicity for the event: « with the complicity of the anthropologist Bruce Albert. »
The Cartier Foundation « Young Audience GUIDE » asked another vital question: « TREE, MY BEAUTIFUL TREE Trees are our ancestors and have always been a source of fascination and inspiration for all human societies, whether in the field of science, the arts or letters. But what is it that amazes us so much about them? Besides the beauty of their foliage and their impressive dimensions, trees also seem to pose metaphysical questions : what is our place in relation to these giants of the living world? »
My response would be that, after reflecting on our actions and deciding to act more responsibly, our action would obviously be refusing to buy or wear gold items in order to protect the Yanomami and the trees.
How about you? What would your response be?
And the « Young Audience GUIDE » continues: « Do you know the Amazon? It is a huge forest in South America and the Yanomami have been one of the people who inhabit it, probably for almost 5,000 years! They believe in the spirit of the forest which gives them everything they need to live. They only change the minimum in nature so as not to harm it and preserve it as best as possible. »
Yes, the best way to not harm and instead preserve nature is to forego buying and wearing gold jewelry, watches and accessories!
As a speaker at the Cartier Foundation’s inauguration of « The Yanomami Struggle » said: « This is the ultimate episode of the conquest of the Americas. The accumulation of gold permitted Europe to develop. We must mobilize to avoid the disappearance of Indigenous peoples. » … Yes, and the disappearance of the forests essential to life for all of humanity and the living world!
Ecocide and Ethnocide are crimes!
NO to GOLD and NO to Cartier !
« Pas de Cartier »!
Exhibition « No to GOLD! – Pas de Cartier ! »
February 14 – December 24 2020
Sculpture, photo, painting – Barbara Crane Navarro
Screen print – Amazoner Arawak
Painting – Sérgio Bello, Constance Mallinson
Assemblage – Catherine-Claire Grenier, Angle & Dawn
Photomontage – POD
Photo – Christian Savy
Model – Jean José Cadilhac
Drawing – Yanomami artists
Film projection – Barbara Crane Navarro, Ramiro Magalhães
Sound Design – César Antonio Estay Herrera
Bridge Gallery, Nemours, 77140, France
To schedule a visit at the Bridge Gallery, please contact me here:
More details concerning Cartier …in their own words… can be found here:
The DEATH of NATURE and INDIGENOUS PEOPLES for Gold and Diamond Merchandise and The ART of GREENWASHING by the MERCHANTS of GOLD – in their own words… 2022
In memory of artist Jaider Esbell