“We Indigenous peoples have always been here, producing art. And now that society has the opportunity to see this in great depth, it is important to debate issues that have been dragging on for some time,” stated curator and Mebengokré Indigenous community member, Edson Kayapó.
The art market is moving closer and closer to Indigenous villages, absorbing the culture and artistry that was once neglected by the world. In recent years, several exhibitions have showcased artists and their works from Brazil and Latin America, many areas in which were historically erased from museums and galleries. Some of these exhibitions include: Siamo Foresta in Milan; The Yanomami Struggle in New York, and BEĨ: Benches of Brazilian Indigenous Peoples in Japan. The accepting curators believe that these works go beyond a visual piece, but allow an emotional connection to the artist's origin; in addition to bringing socio-environmental and political issues into an artistic light.
This time in the art market has called for a heightened demand of Indigenous art, as well as reversing the appropriation of many ancient artifacts. Many late reckonings have occurred when it came to the curation of artifacts, many labeled with incorrect origins or wrongfully taken from certain Indigenous regions. Many of these instances have changed the mindset of many curators and in turn the layout of exhibition guides. Politics and art also are interchangeable in the Indigenous art world, for instance works by 27 artists were collected and displayed in the Siamo Foresta exhibition that opened at Milan’s La Triennale. All works were related to the progression, deterioration, and flourishment of the Amazon rainforest. Another being, The Yanomami Struggle at The Shed culture center in New York, displaying works of the documented changes within the Yanomami Territory for over 50 years, showing the struggles those have faced during the worst humanitarian tragedies.
This newly obtained role by Indigenous artists in the art community has drawn immense international attention, bringing a different light to the history of the Indigenous peoples. French anthropologist Bruce Albert made critical points in addressing the Eurocentric point of view—“man had to dominate nature because it is hostile” but the events of the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to expand their interest in our codependency with nature—“After that world crisis, people had to open their eyes. There are U.N. studies mentioning the possibility of new and worse pandemics if we keep devastating the system of biomes. We now face a major climate problem: The Earth is getting hotter and therefore the human project is in a crisis.”
To conclude, Kayapó believes that today’s role of the Indigenous people in art goes beyond exposing any socio-environmental or political issue as earlier stated, but instead its a means of preserving tradition and ritualistic acts.