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Indigenous Rights

Amazon's indigenous communities sustained by planting seeds

Amazon's indigenous communities sustained by planting seeds

The Amazon covers over seven million square kilometres, touches nine South American countries, and represents half of Earth's rainforests. It's also home to an estimated 390 billion trees. 

Despite concerns spanning decades,  fears of the impacts of deforestation, illegal mining, and droughts on the Amazon are resurfacing. Around 60% of the rainforest is in Brazil, 13% in Peru and 10% in Colombia; the remainder lies in smaller neighbouring countries.  

Unbeknownst to many, deforestation in the Amazon affects climate in other regions of the world. However, those affected most are the indigenous tribes that have called the forest home for centuries and still do.

Fortunately, one organization is working to reduce the impact of deforestation and its effects on the communities and the ecosystem.

Founded by Jorge Hirofumi Shigematsu in 2007, Green Hope is a Colombian non-profit that operates by recovering damaged forest land in Colombia. The organization was featured in Photographers Without Borders' debut print magazine, with coverage by photographers Sienna Clough and Artem Nazarov. Having worked with different indigenous communities, Green Hope helps rebuild deforested land by reforestation. This is achieved by facilitating conservation projects and sharing knowledge.

“After Photographers Without Borders visited us, the media and video coverage we gained has been very important in showing the world what we do," Shigematsu said. "Making people want to help us get, get involved and get closer to what is happening in the Amazon is crucial. People feel that the Amazon is closer to them.”

The organization’s work has been impactful and continues with plans to spread their message in different regions across the Americas. “We are expecting to open Green Hope in the United States and get support from companies interested in supporting us," Shigematsu said. "Also, this year we are expecting to open Green Hope Mexico and begin a reforestation project."

Though Green Hope has been successful, common political barriers like a lack of government support make paths a little harder to cross. “Nowadays, it is still difficult because a lot of corruption exists and often governors, mayors, and politics in general always want to support us if we follow their party," Shigematsu said. "However, Green Hope doesn’t accept help because we are not a political party and we do not get involved with specific political parties.”

Powerful "Concrete Indians" series examines decolonization and identity

Powerful "Concrete Indians" series examines decolonization and identity

In October 2008, Red Works Photography was founded, with the aim of promoting and empowering positive contemporary Indigenous culture in North America. Its founder, Nadya Kwandibens, is Anishinaabe/Ojibwe from the Animakee Wa Zhing First Nation in Ontario. Concrete Indians is one of three ongoing series being produced by Red Works.

Nadya, who has travelled North America, working with other indigenous cultures, firmly believes that the medium of photography is so effective and powerful in promoting her aims.

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“Red Works sessions are always photographed in colour but in addition to regular sessions, I have three ongoing series – Concrete Indians, Red Works Outtakes, and the most recently launched series emergence – which are all in colour except for Concrete Indians portraits," Kwandibens said. "When I initially started editing this series I wanted the portraits to stand out from the vibrancy of my other work and to use black/white in a way that challenges historic uses of the aesthetic format, that deemed Indigenous as peoples of the past, by precensing and juxtaposing Indigenous peoples amongst contemporary, urban, spaces.”

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When asked about the concept of the Concrete Indians series and the importance of portraying indigenous people positively within an urban setting, Nadya noted; “Concrete Indians is an open-call portraiture series […] which focuses on reflections of decolonization and contemporary Indigenous identity. Many portraits are of people in full or partial traditional regalia at major recognizable intersections, others are portraits that convey unity and solidarity; all are assertions of the strength of Indigenous culture and identity through acts of resistance, mainly the act of reclaiming space(s).”

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This photo series blends the culture of various Indigenous people, with an ever-growing presence that is changing the world around them. As Nadya states, Indigenous culture is alive and thriving. It is so important to acknowledge these cultures as part of, and integrated with, our society. Their strength and endurance is visible and encouraging to all.

Nadya explained that one of her favourite moments on her journey, “…took place in Vancouver, BC, during the photoshoot with ten Indigenous women who are all lawyers now, some of whom were studying to become lawyers at the time. I think we all understood and felt the power of that photoshoot and the resulting portraits have resonated with hundreds of people when I posted one of the portraits online. It’s important to spotlight the diverse range of occupations that we as Indigenous people hold space in, and it was particularly empowering to show the strength of Indigenous women in a field typically thought of as male-dominated.”

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And though her journey is not done, the work achieved so far speaks volumes for Nadya’s character as an activist and photographer.

To learn more about Red Works Photography, or simply check out Nadya’s photographs from either one of her powerful series, click here.


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Life with nomads and pilgrims around the world

Life with nomads and pilgrims around the world

PHOTO: REBECCA GEDDES

PHOTO: REBECCA GEDDES

In the summer months of 2016, Australian photographer Rebecca Geddes created one of her most important projects abroad documenting aboriginal groups in Ethiopia and Kenya. Titled "The Abeni Project," Geddes’ documentary followed girls and women living in remote indigenous villages. The project aimed to represent women who would not otherwise garner attention. 

PHOTO: REBECCA GEDDES

PHOTO: REBECCA GEDDES

Geddes’ work has brought her on many travels. In India, she experienced Kumbh Mela, and found the spectacle particularly moving.

“The Kumbh Mela pilgrimage is the largest gathering of mankind, with around 120 million pilgrims participating over the course of two-months,” explains Geddes, “this project tested my resilience, my strength, and my vulnerability equally. It was a once in a lifetime project; the absolute mecca of humanity and still leaves me in awe.”

PHOTO: REBECCA GEDDES

PHOTO: REBECCA GEDDES

While Geddes’ work is an undoubtedly moving representation of her subjects and her experiences, her camera isn't a tool she can always use. 

“During my time in Mumbai. I crossed paths with a local family, of one brother and two sisters, all in their late eighties. Two of the sisters had been wheelchair-bound for over fifty years.”

“The property they resided in, on the second floor, was condemned with only a ladder for access to the living areas. The women had not been outside in over fifty years. Their brother would bring their groceries, medicine, and prepare their meals.” 

Geddes recounts on the touching moment. One of the sisters’ she had met disapproved being photographed. This, was more important to Geddes than capturing a story, despite its potential success. 

PHOTO: REBECCA GEDDES

PHOTO: REBECCA GEDDES

“It was one of those incredible moments where everything just came together. The lighting, the composition, the subjects, it would have been a beautiful photo essay. Unfortunately one of the sisters decided it was not how she wanted to be remembered. I did try and talk her around, however at the end of the day, respect for their decision is paramount.”

Geddes plans on continuing her ventures following women in nomadic families in Mongolia this summer, focusing on the way women in these communities live and how they continue to carve their way in an increasingly modern society. 

You can follow Rebecca Geddes and her work here.


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