Joseca Yanomami: our forest-land


This is Joseca Yanomami’s (Yanomami Indigenous Land, Brazilian Amazon, 1971) first solo exhibition, and it brings together a significant part of his production. In his drawings, the artist represents characters, scenes, and landscapes from the Yanomami people’s universe, both from everyday life and related to shamanic chants and myths, referring to his dreams, his people, his stories, and his territory—the forest. The title of the exhibition, Kami yamak urihipë, Our Forest-Land, evokes this living entity that is protected by the Yanomami people to ensure that spirits have a place to descend, and that animals and human beings continue to exist.

Most of the drawings have titles-descriptions written by the artist in the Yanomami language, manifesting many cosmological dimensions present in his visual narrative. The works are also the expression of a struggle against threats that put the Yanomami people at risk, as well as the forest-land where they live together with all beings, visible and invisible. Here, many drawings tell us about the people who are responsible for this enormous task, for this essential work of sustaining the sky: the shamans. In this way, this exceptional group of drawings constitutes a truly outstanding set, an eloquent and unique testimony to the daily struggle of the Yanomami people in defense of the forest.
Joseca Yanomami urges us to look, feel, perceive, and think about the diversity that inhabits the forest, which encompasses more than its peoples, its fauna, and its flora—it is also formed by the xapiri. These are the spirits that help the shamans and that in the end guarantee that all of us, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, are sure that the sun will rise again tomorrow and that the sky will not collapse on our heads.

All 90 drawings shown on the gallery walls were under the custody of the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) and were acquired from the artist and donated by Clarice O. Tavares to MASP in 2021.

Joseca Yanomami’s exhibition at MASP is organized in the year in which the 30th anniversary of the Yanomami Indigenous Land’s ratification is celebrated. The exhibition is also part of the museum’s two-year program dedicated to Brazilian Histories in 2021–22, coinciding with the bicentennial of the Independence of Brazil in 2022. This year, the cycle includes exhibitions by Alfredo Volpi (1896–1988), Abdias Nascimento (1914–2011), Luiz Zerbini, Dalton Paula, Madalena dos Santos Reinbolt (1919–1977), Judith Lauand, and Cinthia Marcelle, in addition to a large group exhibition, Brazilian Histories.

Joseca Yanomami: Our Forest-Land is curated by Adriano Pedrosa, Artistic Director, and David Ribeiro, Curatorial Assistant, MASP