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Photography - Issue #1

Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau

Words and photography by Gabriel Uchida

Gabriel Uchida’s photographic exploration led him to the Uru-eu-wau-wau and the heart of the Amazon, where he found a way of life under threat. Illegal logging, burning, and land seizure, often accompanied by death threats, have become part of everyday life for indigenous people living in the Amazonian regions of Brazil.

The Uru-eu-wau-wau indigenous land lies in the middle of the Amazon. My first contact with this people, however, happened in the city.Chiefs and village leaders were in Porto Velho, capital of the Brazilian state of Rondônia, for a meeting with the federal police, to denounce invasions of armed loggers on their lands.Before the meeting I found them gathered in the library of an indigenous organisation, leafing through a series of albums of photographs of themselves. Unfortunately the attacks continued, so more meetings happened in the same place, and I encountered them again. The same scene was repeated each time: the indigenous people focused on the same sets of photographs that they had already seen a number of times.

I wanted to investigate their fascination with photography and try to understand this relation with the image, so I began to travel through the six villages of the Uru-eu-wau-wau, looking for images that they had kept. On my first visit to the Linha 623 village, the elder that greeted me was startled by my arrival and repeatedly struck the bow and arrow on the ground as he spoke loudly. As I don’t understand a word of the Tupi-kawahiba language, it was a moment of apprehension. The tone of his voice was strong and energetic while others were watching me in silence. I did not know whether to move on or to retreat, but soon met with Arikan, the village chief.

Uru-eu-wau-wau warriors looking for signs of loggers and land grabbers in their protected area.

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