The Other_Brazilian Police Eviction of Indigenous Community Brazili Rio de Janeiro_13_banner INDIGENOUSLOCALS / May 2014

ALDEIA MARACANÃ: A SYMBOL OF BRAZIL’S INDIGENOUS STRUGGLE

Photography by Felipe DanaChristophe Simon, Vanderlei Almeida and Pilar Olivares, Sergio Moraes
Text by Sophie Pinchetti

In the heart of Rio de Janeiro, one building stands as a beacon of hope in the struggle of Brazilian Indians: Aldeia Maracanã. Situated to the nearby Maracana stadium that now plays host to the World Cup, this colonial mansion was once home to the Museum of the Indian People in Brazil. Today, it is barricaded up, following the Brazilian police’s brutal eviction in 2013 of the indigenous community who had been residing in the premises and infused life into the place. It seems as though Brazil’s first peoples are not welcome to the World Cup.

 

The Other_Home of Subcultures_Style Documentary_Brazilian Police Indigenous Brazil_Rio de Janeiro_12

Police confront native Brazilians to prevent them from marching towards the Mane Garricha football stadium during a demonstration in Brasilia on May 27, 2014. Photographed by Stringer/Brazil/Reuters.

Named after a brightly feathered parrot in the indigenous Tupi language (“Maracana”), Aldeia Maracanã has played a vital role in the strengthening and celebration of indigenous culture in an urban environment. Welcoming musicians, punks, activists, teachers and people from all walks of life, Maracanã is a home for the indigenous community, as well as an open center dedicated to indigenous culture and traditions. Rich in symbolic and historical value for Brazil’s first peoples, this building has come under the spotlight as part of the Brazilian Indians’ struggle for justice.

The community of Aldeia Maracanã composed a group of 70 Indians from 17 different tribes. Since the start of the indigenous reoccupation nearly a decade ago, Aldeia Maracanã has become a place for different indigenous peoples to meet, while also being a language school, particularly of Guarani, a meeting place between indigenous and non-indigenous, a gallery of art and indigenous body-painting, a centre for religious practices by Pajés et Chamans for rituals and ceremonies… A living museum and sanctuary: such is Aldeia Maracanã.

Aldeia Maracanã might have gone relatively unnoticed, had it not been for Rio’s urban reshaping plans. Far from glamorous, these sports mega-events deeply contribute to the continued violation of Brazilian Indians’ rights, the dispossession of their land and natural resources, displacement of their communities, and long standing cultural oppression.

 

An indigenous man holds a small pot of fire at the Brazilian Indian Museum in Rio, on March 21, 2013. (Reuters/Pilar Olivares)

An indigenous man holds a small pot of fire at the Brazilian Indian Museum in Rio, on March 21, 2013. (Reuters/Pilar Olivares)

 

A CENTRE OF INDIGENOUS HERITAGE

 

The building was donated by the Duke of Saxe to serve the indigenous cause for the construction of a research centre of indigenous culture, in order to reunite and represent the ancestral knowledge of Brazil. “The donation included the surroundings of the building, which today includes the actual Maracanã stadium, implanted on this territory of indigenous property”, tells us Kenavo Junti, a French filmmaker and activist living in Rio since the nineties, who regularly visited and took part in ceremonies at Aldeia Maracanã.

Surrounded by boulevards Maracanã and Radial West in the centre of Rio, this colonial mansion was home to the first institute of indigenous cultural research in Brazil in 1910. Until 1978, it was the headquarters of the Museum of the Indian People in Brazil, opened in 1953 by anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro and Marechal Cândido Rondon, the founder of the Service Protection of Indians (the former FUNAI), thought of as a father to Brazil’s indigenous peoples. “This museum was the first museum of the indigenous of Americas, humanising the terrible history of the western Christian conquest of Amazonian lands of Brazil”, says Junti.

The building was then abandoned for several decades under the government of the Dictatorship. In 2006, Aldeia Maracanã was reclaimed when an indigenous community moved in. “They made a ritual and the mission to reinvest in this historical location was manifested, for both the indigenous struggle and that of their own dignity”, says Kenavo Junti. “We want to preserve a historical center. We will not be hidden away. We want to show our culture, stay in a location with visibility – and protest”, says Marcia Guajajara, an indigenous man who is part of Aldeia Maracanã. “Our heritage is not for sale”, continues Urutau Guajajara, the leader of the indigenous group.

 

A man wearing a headdress and another wearing a ski mask sit on a windowsill on the site of the old Indian museum, in Rio, on January 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Ash Ashaninka (with headdress) and a man with a ski mask sit on a windowsill on the site of the old Indian museum, in Rio, on January 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

 

RIO DE JANEIRO’S TRANSFORMATION

 

The proposal for the new residents of Aldeia Maracanã? Millions of football fans. The building was slated for demolition, making way for a planned 10, 000 car parking lot as part of the $500 million renovation for the nearby Maracanã Stadium.

The transformation of Rio into an Olympic City involves its social as well as physical integration”, affirms Rio’s Cidade Olímpica. When reports of the violent eviction hit the news headlines, Rio’s Governor Sergio Cabral promised to turn the space into a new Indian cultural centre with housing, though it would not be completed until the end of 2014.

 

A man wearing a headdress and another wearing a ski mask sit on a windowsill on the site of the old Indian museum, with a view of Maracana Stadium, on January 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Ash Ashaninka (right) wearing a headdress and another wearing a ski mask sit on a windowsill on the site of the old Indian museum, with a view of Maracana Stadium, on January 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

 

ALDEIA MARACANÃ’S FUTURE

 

The plans for Aldeia Maracanã are towards an “indigenous museum managed and built by the Indians and for the Indians”, says Kenavo Junti. The museum would host vast archives and a library, acting as a living archive of indigenous cultures, “developed and realised by the proper representatives of indigenous nations and not by anthropologists who are still today in search of the meanings of these cultures”, continues Junti.

Members from Aldeia Maracanã also have the noble plan to create Brazil’s first Indigenous University: Universidade Indígena Aldeia Maracanã. To this day, some 270 languages are still alive, each one representing differentiated indigenous peoples practicing their own rituals, stories, arts and traditions. The university, planned by an indigenous group from Aldeia Maracanã, would teach languages and indigenous traditions, such as that of natural sciences and plant knowledge.

Today, Rio’s Indian Museum of Botafogo claims replacement for the former Indian Museum at Aldeia Maracanã. But the museum’s representation of indigenous culture and history is highly controversial. It is heavily criticised by many Indians for its colonial and westernized portrayal of their people’s history. “It gives the idea that there are no Indians anymore in Brazil, as if they only existed in the past (a dead museum, as they say)”, tells us Paula Vandala, a photographer and activist who has been involved with Maracanã since the 2013 eviction.

 

Brazilian native Indian Zahy Guajajara checks her computer in the former Indian Museum where she lives, in Rio, on June 2, 2012. (Reuters/Sergio Moraes)

Brazilian native Indian Zahy Guajajara checks her computer in the former Indian Museum where she lives, in Rio, on June 2, 2012. (Reuters/Sergio Moraes)

 

GHOSTS OF THE PAST AND PRESENT

 

But over the past 200 years, the conflict between the indigenous people and the Brazilian nation has always been and continues to be related to the expansion of capitalist economic activities on Brazilian territory. As every day passes, the threat of disappearance of these tribal cultures, languages, and knowledge increases.

Ghosts of history’s past surround the harsh reality of Brazilian Indians, whose population was ravaged from 10 million in 1500 when the first Europeans arrived, down to an all time low of about 100,000 in the 1950s. Local cultures and styles are extinguished to the profit of a globalized Westernisation.

 

An indigenous man lights a fire as others dance after a press conference inside the abandoned Indian Museum, in Rio, on November 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Ash Ashaninka lights a fire as others dance after a press conference inside the abandoned Indian Museum, in Rio, on November 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

THE WORLD CUP FOR EVERYONE?

 

In light of Brazil’s controversial preparations for the World Cup and 2016 Olympics, our sources in Rio tell us that it is difficult to conceive of these events taking place peacefully. “The general feeling about the World Cup is that of a great deception of the people, who have seen the government dilapidate hundreds of billions of dollars for the construction of stadiums”, says Kenavo Junti. “Everything is being done for FIFA, sponsors and corrupted politicians”, continues Paula Vandala. “Rio is in the middle of chaos. For the Indians, the situation is the same. They have no voice. If you try to put yourself against the government, they will call you a vandal or an invader”.

Do not boycott the World Cup, but use it as a media weapon for the benefit of the peoples of Amazonia and the oppressed, expelled outside the stadium”, affirms Chief Raoni’s website, the famous leader of the indigenous Kayapo people.

Over a year later, the fight continues. Independent media collectives and social media groups are emerging in solidarity with the cause of Aldeia Maracanã. With over half a million foreign visitors expected to travel to Brazil for the World Cup and a worldwide audience of hundreds of millions watching, the closing down of Aldeia Maracanã appears strategic. Protests of the dispossessed and marginalised don’t make for good press for Brazil or FIFA. The image of an indigenous man wearing a feathered headdress smiling about the World Cup is clearly more reassuring, as we see in one of the latest Coca Cola adverts plastered around Rio. It is accompanied by the tag line: “Welcome to the World Cup for Everyone”.

 

Ash Ashaninka is arrested during clashes outside the old Indian museum, on March 22, 2013. Police in riot gear invaded an old Indian museum complex Friday and pulled out a few dozen indigenous people who for months resisted eviction from the building, which will be razed as part of World Cup preparations next to the legendary Maracana football stadium. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Ash Ashaninka is arrested during clashes outside the old Indian museum, on March 22, 2013. Police in riot gear invaded an old Indian museum complex Friday and pulled out a few dozen indigenous people who for months resisted eviction from the building. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

STYLE, A SYMBOL OF RESISTANCE

 

The mainstream media rarely gives voice to the indigenous communities. And yet where voices are silenced, bodies become a new form of language. Here at The Other, we’re fascinated with the ways in which style can become symbolic, even an accomplice, in cultural, social and political resistance. We meet the intense gaze of Ash Asháninka, a striking young indigenous man wearing a traditional blue Amazon parrot feather headdress, being arrested. In the streets of Rio, Asháninka’s headdress becomes a powerful symbol of his cultural resistance and heritage, connecting him to his home in the Amazon rainforest located 2,000 miles from Rio. Some activists wear feathered headdresses in solidarity for Aldeia Maracanã.

We also think of the celebrated Chief Raoni at the forefront of the indigenous struggle, whose giant lip plate is immediately recognisable. And that lip plate may only be a lip plate, a feather may only be a feather, red paint may only be red paint – but their speech is also militant. “Small talk is useless”, affirms Sheila Juruna, a Juruna Indian from the Xingu region. “The Government only sees the people when they’re painted red. When they’re ready for war. Is that what they want to see? So it’s what they will see!

What legacy will Brazil’s 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics bring? Perhaps, these events might, as the indigenous hope, help to expose their critical fight in obtaining legitimate rights in Brazil. Until now, these have been forgotten.

 

Natives paint their faces inside the former Indigenous Museum in Rio, on March 21, 2013. (Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images)

Natives paint their faces inside the former Indigenous Museum in Rio, on March 21, 2013. (Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images)

A Brazilian Indian girl from the Guajajaras tribe sits in a hammock at the Brazilian Indian Museum in Rio, on March 18, 2013. (Reuters/Pilar Olivares)

A Brazilian Indian girl from the Guajajaras tribe sits in a hammock at the Brazilian Indian Museum in Rio, on March 18, 2013. (Reuters/Pilar Olivares)

An indigenous man participates in a protest at the old Indian Museum in Rio, during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, on June 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

An indigenous man participates in a protest at the old Indian Museum in Rio, during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, on June 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Two masked men keep a lookout on the rooftop of the old Indian museum, in Rio de Janeiro, on January 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Two masked men keep a lookout on the rooftop of the old Indian museum, in Rio de Janeiro, on January 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Inside the former Indigenous Museum next to the Maracana stadium in Rio, on January 28, 2013. (Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images)

Inside the former Indigenous Museum next to the Maracana stadium in Rio, on January 28, 2013. (Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images)

A indigenous man films a press conference at Aldeia Marcana in Rio, on November 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

A indigenous man films a press conference in the abandoned Indian Museum in Rio, on November 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Natives protest during their eviction from the former Indigenous Museum, on March 22, 2013. Indigenous people have been occupying the place since 2006, which is due to be pulled down to construct a parking lot for the upcoming Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup. (Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images)

Natives protest during their eviction from the former Indigenous Museum, on March 22, 2013. (Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images)

A native man gestures as he protests against eviction from the former Indigenous Museum -- aka Aldea Maracana -- next to the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on March 22, 2013. Indigenous people have been occupying the place since 2006, which is due to be pulled down to construct a parking lot for the upcoming Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup. (Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images)

A native man gestures as he protests against eviction from the former Indigenous Museum, next to the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on March 22, 2013. (Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images)

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