The first indigenous territory to be demarcated in Brazil, in 1961, the Xingu is home to traditional populations who, for centuries, have faced forms of intervention and violence and who inspire the fight for the rights of original peoples. These movements have been accompanied by a profusion of images: from the records of traveling Europeans to the documents of expeditions undertaken by the Brazilian state, from extensive coverage in the press, to the revolution brought about in recent years by indigenous audiovisual production.
This exhibition proposes a revision of the history of these images, establishing dialogues between photographs and films produced by non-indigenous individuals from the 19th century, and the work of contemporary filmmakers, artists and communicators from the peoples of the Xingu and of other origins. This journey incorporates works commissioned by indigenous authors, material from public and private archives, and allusions to other conceptions of the image present in the culture of the Xingu such as graphic design and oral narratives.
Part of the history of the Xingu is documented in photographs in the care of the Instituto Moreira Salles. This exhibition marks the beginning of a process of reevaluating this collection of images in collaboration with indigenous researchers and leaders, by identifying the people, places and situations portrayed. We seek, therefore, to set this collection to work, encouraging critical reflection on the representation of original peoples in the history of this country and the development of new forms of indigenous self-representation.
Audiovisual production is an extremely important tool for the peoples of the Xingu today, because it helps us to preserve everything that we have. Traditionally, our culture does not have writing with which to store the memory of the people, and with audiovisual production we are documenting and rescuing this memory. Each people has its own language, its own culture, and through the camera we can register how each one speaks their tongue, and how each one knows their history.
In the past, photographers came from outside, just as the Europeans did on expeditions. The Villas Bôas brothers brought photographers and filmmakers to the Xingu, with the idea of presenting indigenous cultures to the rest of Brazil. These old images are important to us. They show how we fought to demarcate our lands, and through them we are able to recognize this fight.
But today we are the protagonists of our story. Before we did not know of the audiovisual, now we do. We are the owners of our image and we are taking the fights of the peoples of the Xingu to museums, festivals, cinemas, social networks and exhibitions.
There was not just one contact between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. Contact happens all the time, today and tomorrow, and it also happens through the audiovisual. We want to tell our story so that non-indigenous people can recognize and teach their children of the protagonism of the indigenous peoples of the Xingu and of all of Brazil.
Xingu: indigenous perspectives
Xingu: contacts is an exhibition that takes off from a single event: the first demarcation of indigenous territory in Brazil in 1961, and from there goes on to interrogate the history that preceded and followed this demarcation, in the process changing the point of view of the narratives that document it, be they visual, audiovisual or in text, that have since been constructed up to the present day. Opening space to indigenous perspectives on the history of the Xingu is one of the primary objectives of this exhibition. The Instituto Moreira Salles stores and preserves many photographs in its archives that portray the Xingu and its people, many of which were taken by the most relevant names in the history of photography in Brazil. Providing the chance to see these images through an indigenous gaze, to which they have now become accessible, has resulted in significant changes to interpretations, and the information and knowledge which they allow us to form together. The critical and decolonial reevaluation of the IMS archives is a project which has only just begun and which promises to be an emotional journey into the future.
In such threatening times for indigenous cultures in Brazil, this exhibition also serves to draw attention to the extraordinary wealth and diversity of these cultures, expressing the urgent need to invert the predatory perspectives that have made them victims from the very first colonial contact onwards. In Brazil today indigenous peoples are celebrating a vibrant and expanding artistic and cultural scene, growing each day thanks to the deep respect for ancestrality that both resists and survives. This exhibition serves as a vehement testimony.
None of this would have been possible without the extraordinary dialogue and contact developed by its curators, Guilherme Freitas, author of the podcast Xingu: terra marcada, [Xingu: marked land], and Takumã Kuikuro, a nationally and internationally renowned indigenous filmmaker, to whom we are deeply grateful, extending thanks to all of the artists who participated with their works, as well as all of the teams, within and beyond the IMS; the institutions, people and entities who have allowed us to bring together everything that each visitor will now experience. We would like to give particular thanks to the Associação Terra Indígena do Xingu (ATIX) [Terra Indígena Xingu Association], for all of their collaboration throughout the preparation and presentation of this exhibition.
And, finally, we express our deepest gratitude and recognition to all of the peoples who inhabit the Xingu today, contributing in their generosity, wisdom, and life experience so that all of us may live on in Brazil with great hope.
Instituto Moreira Salles