How Some Indigenous Brazilians are Trying to Save Their Land

September 3, 2019

Photographer Pablo Albarenga’s project “Seeds of Resistance” highlights the plight of indigenous land defenders in Brazil. Albaranga says that 2017 was the deadliest year for these men and women. Citing statistics from NGO Global Witness, Albarenga notes that more than 200 land defenders lost their lives during that year while trying to protect their communities from mining, agro-business and other projects they see as threatening their existence. Again, citing Global Witness, Albarenga says that most of the land defenders deaths happened in Brazil, “with 57 Assassinations; 80% … against people defending the Amazon.”

While Albarenga acknowledges that the data about these deaths illuminates what he feels is an alarming situation, it doesn’t do enough; he wants to give a face to the situation. He hopes the images in his project will help to magnify the reasons these men and women, who see themselves as seeds of resistance, have decided to defend their land. As Albarenga told In Sight:

“The data for the assassinations of the land defenders exposes an alarming situation [but doesn’t] provide detailed information about the stories and the people behind them, nor about the struggles that are still being faced.

These development projects seek to exploit resources without considering historical-cultural aspects of the territory they occupy and only offer relocation as a solution. For this reason indigenous [people] refuse to abandon their land, even when it has been completely devastated.”

Albarenga’s “Seeds of Resistance” is an ongoing and ambitious project. Albarenga presents photo composites of land defenders as a way to bring attention to what they are doing. He told In Sight more about it and his hopes for developing it further:

“Seeds of resistance is a project that seeks to show these stories of struggle in 50 different locations in Brazil…. By taking advantage of aerial footage, the main characters of these stories were portrayed from above, laying over their territory. Finally, images were composed next to one another to show a higher view of the territory they defend while revealing when possible, the threats they face. Some of these images were made as part of the Rainforest Defenders series. A project with DemocraciaAbierta, funded by the Rainforest Journalism Fund, Pulitzer Center.”

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