Could These Colossal, Haunting Portraits Save an Amazon Tribe?

Inspiration  /  Mashups
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In 2014, French photographer and street artist Philippe Echaroux staged a project in his native Marseille entitled Painting with Lights. The technique: video projection of images on infrastructure and landscape. The concept: monumental, guerilla public art that leaves no footprint. Echaroux dubbed the process ‘Street Art 2.0’; the project went viral within days.

Really viral: Echaroux was contacted by a gentleman in the Amazon rain forest to see whether he’d be interested in creating a similar project. The man’s name was Almir Narayamoga Suri, Chief of the Suri tribe, an indigenous people teetering on the brink of extinction due to illegal logging. In a bit of cultural ju-jitsu, the Chief was using modern-day technology to wage his fight; he’d already been named to Fast Company’s ‘Most Creative People in Business’ list in 2011 because of his eyebrow-raising partnership with Google — though his isolated tribe had made first contact with the outside world only in the late 60s, Narayamoga was working with Silicon Valley to use YouTube, smart phones, and Google Earth mapping to fight the deforestation.

So Echaroux’s zero-impact, mega-reach art was the perfect match. And the artist’s message is as clear as the work is powerful:

“When I first met the Suri, I promised them one thing: I wanted to illustrate the fact that when you take down a tree, it’s like you’re slaughtering a man. When you see the connection these people have with the forest, this is really obvious.”

–Philippe Echaroux

Be sure and watch the making-of video at the bottom of the page, see Narayamoga and the artist at work, and hear them in their own words.


 

Translation of voice-over: 

If you’d told me I’d be the first to create street art in the deepest Amazon, I wouldn’t have believed you.

This is Almir Narayamoga Suri, the Chief of the Suri. They were discovered less than 50 years ago, but this guy’s already understood that he needs to trade in bows and arrows for computers, and in this way, save his forest. Our forest.

“He wants to tell you that it’s a great joy for them that you’ve made the first photograph in the Amazon, in this place, and with these people. And he gives you great thanks.”

I don’t have any problems with rules, though I prefer to just draw freestyle. I’m often asked if I’m an artist, or a photographer. I don’t put myself in a pigeonhole, and if that bothers you, good for you —  my work is simply to create. What drives me is to making art. Art with meaning, so I know why I do it: what’s the message? What do I have to say?

When I first met the Suri, I promised them one thing: I wanted to illustrate the fact that when you take down a tree, it’s like you’re slaughtering a man. When you see the connection these people have with the forest, this is really obvious.

“I’m Agamemnon, head of Reforestation. We didn’t know each other, but together we can fix our mistakes.”


Images via Fubiz




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