The Amazon Rainforest and Indigenous Forest Peoples in Peril! – a series of short films by Barbara Crane Navarro – 6 – « Totemic Sculptures – Grace Teshima Gallery Exhibit » 4:04

Totemic Sculpture – canvas sky and cosmos

In « Totemic Sculptures – Grace Teshima Gallery Exhibit » textured paintings plus two totemic sculptures, one in canvas and one in metal, alternate with scenes of Yanomami life in the Amazon rainforest on a screen.

Totemic sculpture – canvas sky and cosmos (detail)

The elements of the two totemic sculptures: The circular shape made with branches represents the communal house of the Yanomami Indigenous people. The suspended bands represent shamanic energies that connect the Yanomami village to the sky, to heaven, to the cosmos. The sculptures are totemic because the power and ritual element of the totem in Indigenous cultures of the Americas is such a vital source.

The inspiration for my work comes from winters I’ve spent with Yanomami communities in the Amazon Rainforest. As of 2005, it’s been 9 years now, and I’m going back for the 10th year this coming winter. At first, I painted women in their hamacs with their babies, hunters with their arrows. Later, I became interested in the practices of the shaman.  The village depends on them for healing and protection, for so many things, and I became fascinated by them and their work. My artwork became more and more inspired by and infused with shamanic energies which is what you see here at Grace’s.

Totemic sculpture – metalhanging bands and branches in metal

As everyone is aware, Indigenous peoples’ existence is threatened by logging operations, by gold miners and other extractive industries – by so many rapacious outsiders, that the purpose of my work now is to speak out against the damage that’s being caused to the Rainforest constantly and the deterioration of the way of life of the Indigenous inhabitants. Little by little, my work is evolving into a dialog with the Rainforest . 

Actually, It’s my way of maintaining a connexion with the Yanomami and thanking them for receiving me the way that they have over the years and welcoming me into their world. And the idea of bringing their world to my world and speaking out in occidental countries about about efforts that need to be made to help them to participate in the 21st century in their own way, preserving the environment as they always have, feels very important to me. The effort that all of us in the occident must make in order to help Indigenous peoples and preserve what remains of Nature is to boycott all products of deforestation; gold, palm oil, exotic wood, soy, beef, gemstones, etc.!

Totemic sculpture – metal – bands and branches in metal (detail)

Film: Jerome Bouyer
Editing: Samantha Halfon Music: Lifelong – Anno Domini Beats

Here’s the film:

Yanomami boy with bow and arrows

For more information about the Rainforest Art Project, please see my website here:

And here in a blog by Palm Oil Detectives:

The « Caution » tape between two tree stumps at the film’s end expresses the urgency of protecting these forests and the lives of Indigenous communities and, ultimately, all of humanity.
We all depend on Nature for our survival.

Thank you so much for appreciating my work!

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 Amazon Rainforest and Indigenous Forest Peoples in Peril! – a series of short films by Barbara Crane Navarro – 6 – « Totemic Sculptures – Grace Teshima Gallery Exhibit » 4:04

  1. Pingback: The Amazon Rainforest and Indigenous Forest Peoples in Peril! – a series of short films by Barbara Crane Navarro – 6 – « Totemic Sculptures – Grace … | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

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